With its exceptional thriller and dark humor “In Brujes” (2008) y “Seven Psychopaths” (2012), the British-Irish director Martin McDonagh has established himself as one of the brilliant filmmakers of this generation. His keen sense of the effect of words, gestures and images are a rarity in today’s film scene, accompanying the construction of their stories with an elegant staging.
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is a drama and another small wonder of incredible narrative balance: Deep pain accompanied by a dry and laconic humor of unexpected twists, with characters that change and yet remain stable. All this contrast challenges the director to present with humor, a terrible situation where there is only one culprit.
Mildred Hayes’ daughter Angela has been dead for seven months. She was raped and murdered near her home in the small community of Ebbing, Missouri. Mildred (Frances McDormand) is still as hurt and angry as the first day, and the local police have barely lifted a finger to find the killer. Now the grieving mother decides not to bear it any longer in silence. He rents three billboards on the outskirts of town and makes clear criticism of the sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). This is not without consequences and changes the lives of many Ebbing residents. While to Mildred’s son, Robbie (Lucas Hedges), would like to forget the subject and avoid it, the deputy sheriff Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) He feels personally attacked by Mildred’s action and begins to plot revenge against her and her friends. A tragic ending seems inevitable.
Many of the characters encased in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” by Martin McDonagh are so full of pain, anxiety and guilt, so we will see in the first minutes of the footage a sad and deep drama. But time does not pass in vain and in the spirit of creating sadness, those minutes serve to define our characters, because the characters (the angry mother, the disinterested Sheriff, the southern cop) are described with sharp precision. But this supposed and almost tragic clarity is deceptive, the director and writer puts his bitter story with small moments of humor that oppose the oppressive load of the dark subjects with great ease and tact. Smiling, McDonagh shows his audience how wrong he was with his first impressions. And he doesn’t do this by making his characters act differently from their first sketches, no. He does not resort to cheap dramaturgical tricks, but simply writes scenes so good that the true traits of the characters come out. In the end, you have to be ashamed of the feelings that, as a viewer, you have given to some of them.
Martin McDonagh always strikes the right tone with narrative balance, so not a single humorous spark seems out of place or inappropriate. One of my favorites is when Mildred drives her son to school and some classmates throw soda cans at him, the result is great. Especially with Robbie’s response with a laconic “Thank you, Mom.” We have all wanted to do that at one time or another. With such details, McDonagh creates a special closeness to the characters, and the resulting sense of intimacy is enhanced by the great actors.
The fantastic Frances McDormand (Fargo, 1996) allows us to gradually see the whole tragedy of the situation as a woman of character but destructive. The cold anger that she really feels is perfectly reflected on her face, she is cinema. Woody Harrelson is no stranger to the fact that his character, portrayed as an ignorant and stupid sheriff, is later given conciliatory wisdom in the face of devastating fate. Sam Rockwell in turn, reveals totally new aspects of the typical southern man, with violent tendencies, this completes the exquisite trio of protagonists. Even the supporting characters, with just a few scenes, feel alive and in turn more complex than many blockbuster superheroes with an uninterrupted screen presence. Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) is much more than a tragic and ephemeral character, Abbie Cornish (Limitless, Sucker Punch) as Willoughby’s young wife is more than just a silly blonde, and John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone, The Sessions) Like Mildred’s ex-husband, he’s more than the funky type who likes younger women.
Just as the characters repeatedly reveal new sides to themselves, Martin McDonagh gradually releases new layers of his narrative and cleverly undermines previously built expectations. So “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” offers a lot of unseen twists coming, it hits us and we’re not ready to take the punch. The tension does not diminish throughout the film, until an ending that probably no one can imagine at the beginning of it. Thanks to powerful performances and a fascinatingly varied plot, the film unpretentiously stages a stunning emotional roller coaster that requires no stylistic tricks.
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Review of Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017) Cocalecas.net: Film News – Billboard – Reviews – Interviews – Podcast