Cinema plots don’t get much more emotive than the murder of a child. At the same time, the slayings of pretty young women and the police’s attempts to catch their killers are standard film fare.

By Debbie Stowe

 

DIRECTOR: Martin McDonagh

STARRING: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage

ON AT: Movieplex Cinema, Grand Cinema & More, Happy Cinema, Cine Globe Titan, Hollywood Multiplex, Cinema City Cotroceni, Cinema City Sun Plaza, Cinema City Mega Mall, Cinema City ParkLake, Glendale Studio

 

 

So it’s testimony to the singularity of Martin McDonagh’s movie that it manages to be a laugh-out-loud funny film about child murder, and show practically nothing of the cops’ hunt for the murderer, despite this being the premise.

Frances McDormand – who won the Best Actress Oscar for her striking performance – plays the victim’s mother, Mildred Hayes. With no arrests seven months on, she decides to take matters into her own hands, and rents – well, you can probably work out what she rents from the literalist title – to spur the local police into action.

While the other residents of her Midwestern backwater pity Mildred for her loss, her provocative action divides the town, in part because the popular police chief (Woody Harrelson) is going through his own problems.

The billboards have a profound, sometimes transformative, effect on everyone linked to them, from Mildred’s awkward teenage son and abusive ex, to the staff of the advertising company responsible for them, the officers accused by them (notably racist deputy Dixon, Oscar-winningly played by Sam Rockwell), and the townsfolk, who alternately rally round or condemn the grieving mother.

On the downside, there’s too much swearing, and anyone expecting a conventional murder mystery or police procedural with justice and closure at its heart will be disappointed.

Instead, this is an almost indefinable film, about redemption and forgiveness, against the backdrop of American race relations. It’s wickedly funny, deeply moving, inspiring, bleak, hopeful, and unforgettable.