Review: Three Billboards Outside Waste, Missouri ★★★★★

Cast your mind forward a few weeks at the Dolby Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard at around 8pm (PST), Sunday, March 4.

Someone, probably, dressed in black and with good teeth, will be the opening of a golden envelope, while, at the same time, saying these words: “The Oscar for best actress in a leading role goes to…”

He or she will then pause for a dramatic effect, pull the paper out and say…

“Frances McDormand! – for Three Billboards Outside Waste, Missouri.”

This is going to happen.

His only serious competition comes from Sally Hawkins as the amphibian lover of goalkeeper Guillermo del Toro’s fabulous film The Shape of Water, but McDormand edges to give life to the remarkable Mildred Hayes; a kick-ass, boiler suits, bandana-wearing working-class woman with a broken heart and a raging soul.

Twentieth Century Fox

Mildred is an uncompromising, unyielding, unappeasable big character from a small town that is destined to become one of cinema’s great tragic lone-heroes.

She is not a vigilante, or a cop, or an ex-soldier. She is not armed with lethal weapons and even has a kick exponent of the martial arts. His arsenal is much more frightening.

Mildred Hayes is a fierce, smart, grieving, middle-aged, mother, and nihilistic courage of someone for whom consequences are irrelevant.

She is numb on the outside and dead inside.

Some time ago he had a stupid discussion with a teenage daughter to go. In this difficult love, no-nonsense way in which she said things that he shouldn’t have, like, “I hope I get raped’.

His daughter got raped.

And it was then given to the flames.

And then murdered.

As you can imagine, it wastes Mildred. Wrongs need to be repaired. In need of closure.

The killer must be found.

Frustrating for her, and the police are taking a more relaxed approach. Are less het up about things. So, after doing a couple of requests to no avail, they return to their small town ways, that Mildred describes as “goin’ ’round torturing black people.”

Twentieth Century Fox

What choice does that take in their hard skin of the hands?

Rent three disused and dilapidated billboards on Drinkwater Road just outside the fictional town of Reflux, in Missouri, and puts the following message on them in large black letters against a blood red background:

Billboard 1: RAPED WHILE dying.

Billboard 2: AND STILL NO ARRESTS?

Billboard 3: AS ever, the HEAD of WILLOUGHBY?

And that the film is set-up.

What follows is one of the best black comedies that I have seen in this century.

Twentieth Century Fox

Anyone who has seen the plays The Lieutenant of Inishmore or The Pillowman know Martin McDonagh is a writer of rare wit and virtuosity. If you’ve seen In Bruges, you’ll know he can direct. But it takes the two art forms to another level in the Three panels, which he has written specifically for Frances McDormand.

She is not the only star of the show.

Woody Harrelson is exceptional, the Reflux of the venerable Chief of Police of Willoughby that try to play the ‘but I’m dying of cancer’ compassion card to Mildred, who promptly trump is suggesting that he uses his terminal condition, as motivation to get his daughter, the case solved as soon as possible.

Twentieth Century Fox

Dixon and Willoughby dim-witted, racist, violent mama’s boy of a junior officer. In the wrong hands, the character would be little more than a two-dimensional cartoon thicko – a sort of Beavis and Butthead rolled into a bigoted, bullying buffoon – but Sam Rockwell, who manages the mine, Dixon, dry and with success, to find his humanity and humility.

Twentieth Century Fox

John Hawkes as Mildred’s ex-husband Charlie is the person is not able to overcome with the fury of brooding. He adds an extra layer of fat dark black comedy with its low-put-down – “there is no need to explain yourself to me because you are at dinner with a nano, Mildred (she) and heartless jibes glibly thrown in his open wound of guilt.

You can get away with taking her; after all, he has lost a daughter. But the same is not true for the arrogant schoolboy who threw a bullet to his car. He is not new.

He’ll tell his friends the same thing, I say my: make sure that you look out for Mildred Hayes.

She is something different.

As is this film, which captures the insular nature of life in a rural community with heart and soul and humour.

It is very well written, well shot, expertly told the story: it is a modern classic.Follow Gompertz on Twitter