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Closing Night Gala

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Martin McDonagh’s third feature is a scabrously funny drama about the battle between a grieving mother and the local head of law enforcement.


Dir-Scr Martin McDonagh
Prod Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, Martin McDonagh
With Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage
UK Distribution Twentieth Century Fox

Martin McDonagh’s follow-up to Seven Psychopaths (LFF2012) is a characteristically pitch-black comedic drama featuring a blistering central performance from Frances McDormand. It’s been seven months since her daughter was murdered and foul-mouthed, tough-as-nails Mildred Hayes (McDormand) is fed up. Fuelled by grief and outraged that the investigation has gone quiet, she provokes the local police department with a series of messages plastered on three disused billboards outside her home town of Ebbing, Missouri. So begins a rapidly escalating and very public feud between Mildred and venerated community leader and family man, Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). The situation is exacerbated when blundering side-kick, Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) gets involved. Just as unhinged as Mildred, but with a significantly lower IQ, Dixon’s penchant for violence is stoked by his leaden, borderline psychotic mother to whom he is unhealthily attached. McDonagh’s screenplays are consistently audacious and his sleight-of-hand here is to make the victim (or more accurately, the victim’s mother), a righteous, nasty woman who is just as hell-bent on rebuffing sympathy as she is on getting justice.

Like many of McDonagh’s best and most profane characters, Mildred has a fibrous moral code. Her indignant blustering is frequently triggered by social injustice and small-town bigotry – ‘it seems to me that the police department is too busy torturing black folks to solve actual crime’ – and her increasingly reckless actions are prompted by a deep-seated sense of guilt and regret. McDonagh’s latest exploration of the American psyche is by turns riotously funny and deeply sobering, cutting to the quick of social division and tearing to shreds – like the tattered billboards that Mildred papers over – the all-American dreaminess of the Capra-esque small town. A universally splendid cast is rounded out by Abbie Cornish, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Clarke Peters and Caleb Landry Jones.

Clare Stewart

Festival guests

These members of the filmmaking team are expected to attend the festival:

  • Martin McDonagh, Director; Peter Dinklage, Cast; Woody Harrelson, Cast; Frances McDormand, Cast; Sam Rockwell, Cast

See the full list of visiting festival guests. Please note that we can't guarantee guest attendance at any particular screening.

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