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Film Of The Week Plea for justice writ large

MARIA DUARTE recommends a resonant film on a woman who, seeking redress for her daughter's murder, gets her message across on the billboards

Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (15)
Directed by Martin McDonagh

THIS dark comedy drama about a single mother taking on the white, male-run authorities was the toast of this year's Golden Globes, winning four awards.

British writer-director Martin McDonagh's follow-up to In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths is funny, brutal and cutting as it tackles injustice, physical abuse, sexism and the racist violence of white cops.

But its central theme of a lone woman fighting for justice for her murdered daughter and demanding to be heard certainly resonates in the wake of the newly launched Time's Up campaign and women finally being able to come forward and demanding to be taken seriously.

Seven months after her teenage daughter was raped and killed, her mother Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) places a concise but controversial message on three billboards leading into Ebbing directed at the town's much-loved police chief William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), challenging him to do his job and catch her child's killer.

Mildred soon becomes the biggest and most painful thorn in Willoughby's side and, when his second in command Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) — an infantile mummy's boy with a violent and racist streak — gets involved, it turns into outright war.

McDonagh's smart and poignant script is brought vividly to life by McDormand, whose tour-de-force Mildred explodes onto the screen in a role which deservedly won a Golden Globe.
Her confrontations with a superb Harrelson and Rockwell are dynamite.

Mildred is a strong and complex woman,  still grieving the loss of her daughter and dealing with her abusive ex-husband and his 19-year-old old airhead girlfriend. With the anger-filled Mildred a lone gun seeking justice and retribution, this resembles a modern-day Western and you empathise with her situation and what she is going through although she takes her campaign to extremes.

But, as Willoughby points out to Mildred, it isn't that they haven't done their job properly it is just that sometimes it is down to getting a lucky and unexpected break.

Halfway through, following a surprising twist, the film suddenly shifts gears and tone drastically and veers into a completely different direction, losing some of its energy and direction as a result.

Thankfully, though, McDonagh doesn't tie up all the loose ends nicely and McDormand's driven portrayal keeps you gripped.

 

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