At last, a film that takes on a serious subject and does not cop out! Woohoo, just for that, Three billboards deserves ten out of ten. Luckily, to quote local director Brett Michael Innes, this film is a masterclass in just about every element of filmmaking.
What will hopefully stay with you after watching this film are the incredibly well written characters. They are all intriguing and flawed, down to earth and yet larger than life, from the leads to the smaller roles. Frances McDormand plays a maddeningly belligerent woman who can switch halfway through a scene from pursuing callous vengeance to showing absolute empathy.
Sam Rockwell’s goofball Dixon is both bigoted and loyal, driven and confused. You hate him. You have hope for him, despite knowing that someone with such a bitter, racist woman for a mother has very little chance of redeeming himself.
The always wonderful Woody Harrelson gives a tender performance as Sheriff Willoughby, a loyal, albeit stubborn, husband and father and dedicated police officer.
Harrelson is almost upstaged by Abbie Cornish as his wife. She only has one major scene, towards the end of the film, and she owns it. You feel every inch of her despair.
Lucas Hedges is carving out quite the career for himself. I first saw him in Manchester by the Sea. He followed that up with Lady bird, and now Three billboards. Not a bad line-up for a 22-year-old. (Keep an eye out for the cereal-in-the-hair scene.)
Finally, you have a scowling Peter Dinklage representing humanity and warmth. Perfection.
There is not one unnecessary frame in this beautifully shot film. Every scene, every piece of brutal dialogue, even Mildred’s overalls and shaved head, is carefully considered and necessary to tell a perfectly edited, concise narrative. Yes, there are surprises, but the kind that initially blow you away, but on second thought, feel completely natural to the storyline. The film does not pull a Hollywood; it does not go over the top and off the rails. Right to the last second, every scene, every gesture, every spoken word is measured.
It’s a fierce film that does, refreshingly, not offer real redemption to any of the characters, but that does portray them as terribly flawed and utterly human. The lead characters are unhinged. They will not behave the way you want them to. They will not be sanitised. They will not be tamed. It is glorious.