Wed | Dec 13, 2017

Grief, humour, healing make superb 'Billboards'

Published:Monday | November 27, 2017 | 12:00 AMDamian Levy
Academy Award winner Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes in ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’.

About 15 minutes into Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, I was convinced. This film with a title that will never roll off the tongue had become one of my favourites of the year.

It tells the story of Mildred Hayes, played by Frances McDormand, a grieving mother frustrated that her daughter's murder has gone unsolved for more than a year, with no signs of resolution. To make sure the case is not forgotten, Mildred puts up three explicit billboards, much to the dismay of the local police department.

What follows is a brilliantly scripted, expertly paced and phenomenal story about tragedy, loss, and healing. It's also wickedly funny, as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri epitomises the modern-day dark comedy. Its characters use humour to mask their pain and, in some instances, channel it into hilarious tirades. The dialogue between the characters plays like poetry, with each of them stepping in time to the rhythm of a very heated, often one-sided, discussion.

 

Profanity overload

 

It is also riddled with profanity. I'd like to say it's due to grief, but flashbacks in the film show the characters were just as willing to curse prior to the event the film is about. Still, that's in line with what the movie is trying to say. The film depicts grief at different stages and from different perspectives. It delves into how one person's extreme feels like the norm when faced with immense pain.

It reinforces these messages with inspired direction. Everything, even down to the way the characters are structured in scene, inform the viewer's understanding of the moment in the film. It's not necessary to notice these elements, but they definitely added something to my enjoyment of the film. Attention to detail is definitely rewarded in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

I can't think of a better film to be watching in 2017 than Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Underneath its cynicism, the film is ultimately hopeful. As Mildred sheds the light on forgotten atrocities, one can't help but think of the many recent sexual assault allegations facing Hollywood. It's a film that teaches us not to be satisfied with a system that is comfortable with zero accountability, to reveal true colours even when they might not paint the prettiest picture.

If it had made me cry, it would be one of the greatest of all time. Still, it's definitely worth seeing right away.

Rating: Big-Screen Watch.