Truth in Advertising

By the final scene, a great quantity of blood will have been splashed across the screen, yet despite the impressive amount of mayhem and gore on view, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is an unusually literary film. Martin McDonagh, who began his career as a playwright, is intensely concerned with language. In fact, Three Billboards is partly about the power of language—specifically, the outrage and havoc caused by the few words that Mildred chooses to display. Just before Mildred’s first conversation with Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jones) begins, we may notice that Red is reading a book by Flannery O’Connor. It’s by no means a casual or accidental choice. One feels O’Connor’s spirit hovering over the film, and not only because, like her fiction, it is set in the rural South and leavens a deep seriousness with broad and often grotesque humor.

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