I must admit. I was rather excited about watching this film. When the reviews came in, I got even more excited. This was also a worry, was I going to over hype myself and come away dissapointed?
Thankfully, the answer was no.
This is a great film, and whilst it is still on at the cinemas’ I urge anyone to go and watch it.
It’s quirky, funny, beautifully acted but also so very cruel.
If you enjoyed the likes of In Bruges and Seven Physcopaths, you can probably already have a good idea of what to expect, as the film is directed by Martin McDonagh.
Frances McDormand stars in the leading role, and is savage. She is supported by Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell.
Rockwell is brilliant as the aggressive, racist police officer, where a suspension and then an accident makes him see some errors in his ways. His bond with this chief, and then McDormand is one of many of the stories this film tells.
I found it interesting that the film depicted a small town community with small town perspectives and views. It wasn’t brimming with progressive thinkers, it was a working class community with a mix of outdated and slowly progressing views and perspectives. A racist cop tortures a black man and while people know that’s a bad thing, the cop still has a job and is protected by boss. At the same time the people who know, and say, torturing a black man is wrong still refer to a dwarf as a midget and literally look down at him as a figure of fun (despite him being one of the only characters to perform a genuinely heroic/selfless act). Red, the guy that rents out the billboards, reads Flannery O’Connor, and demonstrates his intelligence over Dixon while trying to avoid getting his head kicked in, and later he also performs an act of kindness that raises him above the petty prejudices and small town thinking that Sam Rockwell’s character is shackled to. Rockwell’s character is a product of his mean and manipulative mother (straight outta Bates Motel), and it’s the kindness of others (Willoughby, Mildred and Red) that offer him a way towards some kind of redemption. How much punishment do we want Dixon to suffer? He’s been pretty fucked up by the end of the film and potentially about to head towards an act he can’t come back from because he is still being driven by his distorted sense of justice. His idea of doing the right thing is to use violence to right wrongs. Is Mildred that different? She might be more enlightened to racial harmony, but she is still willing to carry out extreme acts because she is angry at the authorities.
I like to think that Mildred turned a corner when she refrained from bottling her husband in the restauraunt and faced the realisation that her fight was over. This might then suggest she accompanied Dixon in a bid to change his mind, and help her accept that she has to put her and her son’s life first again, to live again.
It was also quite a maternal act (she packs a picnic for their trip)….as was her reaction to Willoughby coughing blood and going to the police station when her friend is arrested like an angry mum might do if their kid gets locked up for something minor.
It’s a revenger’s tragedy. No one is redeemed. The need to balance the scales only causes destruction. Mildred becomes a monster – and while those around her give her huge concessions due to what she has been through (as they do in different ways to Dixon, and to Willougby), her descent is one of a classical tragic protagonist.
The only person who gets closure is Willoughby, by choosing his death and its surrounding circumstances.