WEEKEND WEB: Oscar signs are good for Billboards

Three billboards

FILM REVIEW: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (15)SHOWCASE CINEMA DE LUX PETERBOROUGH, OUT NOWCAST: FRANCES McDORMAND, SAM ROCKWELL, WOODY HARRELSON, CALEB LANDRY JONES, ABBIE CORNISH, PETER DINKLAGE, LUCAS HEDGES, JOHN HAWKES, KERRY CONDON, ZELJKO IVANEK, SAMARA WEAVING, SANDY MARTIN & CLARKE PETERSRUNNING TIME: 1 HR 55 MINSDIRECTOR: MARTIN McDONAGH

This will be in a close battle with the forthcoming Ladybird for Best Film at the Oscars – because Three Billboards showcases what a film should be.

A terrific storyline and cast immediately makes this one of the best movies in recent memory – and Frances McDormand (Academy award winner for Fargo) and Sam Rockwell (The Green Mile) should add to their Golden Globes acting awards with Oscar gongs if there’s any justice.

Their performances are simply breathtaking.

McDormand stars as divorced mother Mildred Hayes, silently grieving the rape and murder of her teenage daughter seven months previous. Frustrated beyond belief at the lack of progress in the investigation, she rents three abandoned billboards near her home, venting anger at the town’s chief of police, Sheriff Bill Willoughby (the always good value Woody Harrelson).

But despite sympathy at her plight, some of the townspeople get upset at the advertising hoardings – which then gets local TV attention – particularly one of Willoughby’s right-hand men, Rockwell’s aggressive Officer Dixon, who puts pressure on everyone around Mildred to take the posters down.

And what evolves isn’t necessarily what you think, with some heartfelt stories involving emotion, kindness and misguided retribution that involves the likes of Caleb Landry Jones’ (Get Out) advertising agent Red Welby, Mildred’s son Robbie (Manchester by the Sea’s Lucas Hedges), Mildred’s ex Charlie (Everest’s John Hawkes), Peter Dinklage’s (Game of Thrones) midget James vying for Mildred’s affections, Dixon’s close relationship with his Momma (Sandy Martin), Willoughby’s hidden woes alongside his wife Anne (Geostorm’s Abbie Cornish) – and especially Mildred’s personal demons that involve her final moments with her daughter Angela.

Writer/director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) – who will surely get Best Screenplay if he’s pipped to Best Director at the Oscars – mixes dark comedy within the clever script that gleefully pulls unexpected moments out of its hat.

It does ever so slightly veer off course in the third act – and steer clear if you don’t like excessive profanity – but the exceptional McDormand and Rockwell are always on hand to drive it home to provide one of the films of the year, at the start of the year.

You’ll be hard pressed to find two more sensational performances – and the film is the perfect advertisement for what Hollywood really should be all about.

Rating: 4.5/5 , Gavin Miller

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