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Will Gompertz reviews Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ★★★★★

From BBC - January 12, 2018

Cast your mind forward a few weeks to the Dolby Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard at around 8pm (PST), Sunday 4 March.

Somebody, probably dressed in black with very good teeth, will be opening a golden envelope while simultaneously saying these words: "The Oscar for best actress in a leading role goes to"

He or she will then pause for dramatic effect, pull out the card and say

"Frances McDormand! -for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."

This will happen.

Her only serious competition comes from Sally Hawkins as the amphibian-loving janitor in Guillermo del Torro's fabulous film The Shape of Water, but McDormand edges it for giving life to the remarkable Mildred Hayes; a kick-ass, boiler-suited, bandana-wearing working class woman with a broken heart and a raging soul.

Mildred is an uncompromising, unflinching, and unappeasable big character from a small town who is destined to become one of cinema's great tragic lone-heroes.

She is not a vigilante, or a cop, or an ex-soldier. She is not tooled-up with lethal weapons nor is she a high-kicking exponent of the martial arts. Her armoury is much scarier.

Mildred Hayes is a furious, intelligent, grieving, middle-aged mother with the nihilistic courage of someone for whom consequences are inconsequential.

She's numb on the outside and dead within.

A little while back she had a silly argument with her teenage daughter about going out. In that tough-love, no-nonsense way of hers she said things she should not have, like 'I hope you get raped'.

Her daughter got raped.

And was then set alight.

And then murdered.

As you can imagine, it devastates Mildred. Wrongs have to be righted. She needs closure.

The killer must be found.

Frustratingly for her, the police are taking a more laid back approach. They are less het up about things. So, having made a few enquiries to no avail they revert to their small-town ways, which Mildred describes as "goin' 'round torturing black folks."

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