Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Imperfect, cornered and wounded.

by Antonio Cabello Ruiz-Barrecos

Review of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), directed by Martin McDonagh. UK / USA.

It’s not easy, but all of us are in Ebbing (Missouri): imperfect, wounded and cornered. Our existence? An extremely black comedy in the hands of playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh, who makes the definitive jump without losing an apex of those traits already in display in that train car that shone so bright as his introductory letter into the movie industry (Six Shooter, 2004): outstandin ensemble casts, a carefully constructed aesthetical atmosphere and witty dialogues.

In his new film after In Bruge (2008) and Seven Psychopaths (2012), McDonagh leads us down a road that’s practically abandoned just outside a local community in the middle of rural USA, a place where Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) chooses to initiate a war against the local police following the erection of three massive billboards on the spot of the rape and murder of Mildred’s daughter. Thereon: a hail of low blows, verbal aggresion, suicides, cocktail molotovs and, why not, kicks in the groin. And yet, McDonagh builds characters that are capable of spitting at us and hugging us almost within the same breath.

We stand in front of an imperfect work – the rhythm rather slows down during the second act – which is dominated by the impulsiveness of its charismatic characters, where the script twists and turns as it touches on racism, media and sex scandals (as covered by the church). Through these characters, through their pathetic mistakes and relative triumphs, their gestures of love and hate, that we get to empathize with each and every one of them. Within this exceptional cast – which includes Woody Harrelson, Caleb Landry Jones, Abbie Cornish, John Hawkes and Peter Dinklage – special mention must go to McDormand as the corageous mother and Sam Rockwell as a racist cop.

Without quite yet leaving Ebbing but with its nooks and crannies still fresh in our mind, we have only to thank such bold enterprise in times of empty manichaeisms and routine morality lessons. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a work rich in intent, textures and lecturing.


TonioAntonio Cabello / Writer (Jaén, Spain – 1993) Producer and editor for Fremantlemedia Spain on TV shows, he studied journalism and audiovisual communication at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. He also studied poetry, humanism and film criticism. Six years ago he founded Esencia Cine, for which he has covered the Cannes and San Sebastián film festivals. Life is time.

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