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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (15)

John Woods gives his verdict on this acclaimed and powerful piece of cinema, featuring a woman seeking justice following her daughter's murder ...

Directed by Martin McDonagh
Starring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage
115 Minutes
2017

I can’t say that I can wholeheartedly recommend this film as the recipe for an entertaining evening. Yet it is an important piece of moviemaking which is attracting critical acclaim, and deservedly so.

A sad and harrowing story (with strong language) of a woman who is left feeling hollow and cheated by the lack of police attention given to finding her daughter’s killer.

Driven to desperate measures she hires three giant billboards to post ads that name and shame the local Police Chief. In an ironic twist, the guy who hires out the billboards can be seen in his office (if you are quick), reading Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find!  This is a bittersweet moment in a film in which every character, apart from a black police captain who features in the latter stages of the film, is deeply flawed.

Missouri is neither really in the North or the South, so this is a tale of typical small town Middle America, with all its complex idiosyncrasies. What is perhaps most alarming, is the portrait of how superficial human beings can be, and how relationships can so easily become dysfunctional. Human beings in the words of TS Eliot can “only bear so much reality”. The film does contain its moment of an unexpected and dramatic change of heart. Even this does not turn out entirely as expected.

Three Billboards is a brilliant well told narrative of how life can be so disappointing when no-one is willing to act in a responsible way. It helps Christians to see what a difference just one “good man” (or woman) can make to our world, and what a gap is left when he or she goes AWOL!

John Woods is pastor of Lancing Tabernacle in West Sussex

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