I’ve never made a film, but I’d imagine it being really fucking difficult to create something that delivers laugh out loud comedy, tears of genuine anguish and moments of horrifying shock all in the space of a few hours.
Martin McDonagh has pulled that off, and more, with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Quite simply, this is straight up the best film I’ve seen in years.
With Frances McDormand in the lead role, comparisons with Fargo will be hard to avoid. And it wouldn’t be an unfair comparison to make. Three Billboards sits comfortably alongside the Coen brothers classic Fargo in terms of its black comedy stylings and even its setting in a backwards town.
McDormand plays grieving mother Mildred Hayes, desperate to get the local police department to work harder on solving the recent brutal murder of her teenage daughter. Her unconventional method of raising awareness (the clue is in the film’s title) certainly has the desired effect, but of course it also brings with it some unforeseen issues.
Woody Harrelson’s Sheriff Bill Willoughby is genuinely sympathetic towards Hayes’ situation, but he’s dealing with plenty of his own troubles as it is. Not least his loveable idiot sidekick Officer Jason Dixon, played superbly by Sam Rockwell.
McDonagh is a master of turning tears of laughter into tears of terrible sadness – often in the same scene. McDormand is surely in line for an Oscar to go with the one she scooped for Fargo. Her performance here is remarkable.
Whether she’s bravely squaring up to the hapless police, fighting off an abusive estranged husband or swerving the advances of lovestruck “midget” James (played by Peter Dinklage), her character is ruthlessly devoted to getting justice for her daughter – even if it means making life hell for everyone else, including her teenage son.
There are too many funny scenes to mention, and as ever I don’t want to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of the film with unnecessary spoilers. But even the simple act of Peter Dinklage excusing himself to use the “little boy’s room” has the cinema-goers in stitches. And honestly, that was the least funny line of them all.
Truly, you’d be fool not to see this movie on the big screen.
Three Billboards is heartbreakingly sad, jaw-droppingly shocking and snot-inducingly fucking hilarious. And that is a hell of an achievement.