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We need to talk about *that* monologue in Three Billboards, and its obvious Irish influence

Spoilers Inside.

Warning: Spoilers within, don’t read on if you haven’t seen the movie yet

PastedImage-73588 Source: Fox Searchlight

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE Ebbing, Missouri is a quintessential film in the ouevre of Martin McDonagh, the London-Irish writer-director, who specialises in black comedy crime films. The topic of McDonagh’s Three Billboards has coincidentally captured the zeitgeist that has swept through Hollywood since last Autumn: namely, for those who commit crimes of sexual violence to be held accountable.

However, *spoiler alert*, Three Billboards doesn’t get a fairytale satisfactory ending, and no one is held accountable.

The film chronicles Frances McDormand’s character, Mildred Hayes, as she grieves the loss of her teenage daughter who was raped, murdered and finally set on fire (presumably to destroy evidence).

Mildred channels her frustration at the lack of progress in her daughter’s case by campaigning for answers through erecting three large billboards that shame the police department for allowing the case to go cold.

PastedImage-56618 Source: Fox Searchlight

For anyone who’s seen Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, there are several standout moments that make this movie deserving of its seven Academy Award nominations.

For anyone Irish watching the film, the outstanding scene that will propel McDormand towards her second Academy Award after Fargo looks to be heavily influenced by McDonagh’s Irish heritage.

Fr. Montgomery, Ebbing’s resident priest, visits Mildred in her house to quietly berate and shame her into taking down the billboards, telling her that she is losing the goodwill of the congregation.

The scene is reminiscent of a time in Ireland when priests, as the would-be moral authority in the community, would often visit families to tell them how to behave in accordance with the values and morals of the Catholic Church.

Families, fearful of being ostracized and unliked in the community, would fall into step with whatever the whiter-than-white priests said. This went as far as families sending their own daughters away to Magdalene laundries, as can be seen at the beginning of the Magdalene Sisters film, when Ann-Marie Duffy’s character reports a rape and a priest arrives to lock Duffy up in the Magdalene laundries.

PastedImage-37991 Source: Fox Searchlight

Mildred, like Duffy’s character, has an inconvenient truth to tell about members of the community.

Duffy’s character lived in an era where her voice was silenced. However, Mildred will not be silenced, and decides instantaneously to not just continue with her campaign for justice, but to administer a damning diatribe to Fr. Montgomery and the Catholic Church.

Mildred delivers a scathing two-minute monologue to Fr. Montgomery, where she righteously dismisses that he has a moral standing to discuss matters of sexual abuse and violence.

She draws a damning parallel of the complicit nature of Fr. Montgomery silencing her search for justice when he is a member of an organisation that not only violently and sexually abused children, but proceeded to cover it up on an industrial scale.

She makes it abundantly clear to him that she holds him, as a member of the all-male Catholic Church gang, culpable for the violence done against women and children in society at large.

In Three Billboards, we don’t get to see justice delivered as Mildred does not discover the identity of her daughter’s rapist and murderer. Was McDonagh influenced by what has happened in Ireland?

Whilst the violent abuses and cover-ups have been exposed, we still haven’t seen justice delivered for the victims of abuse at catholic religious congregations who ran residential institutions. The Journal reported last year that only €85 million of the €226 million owed by Catholic religious congregations has been received by the State. Until the Catholic Church fully redresses these victims, it’s not clear how the Catholic Church can continue the myth that they are a moral authority on any issue in Ireland.

PastedImage-80927 Source: PA Images

What IS clear, is that McDonagh has been self-reflective, calling his past two films ‘male-dominated’.

Speaking on RTE News, McDonagh said that when he wrote Three Billboards, he deliberately set out to write “a very strong female character’.

Mildred is probably one of the strongest characters I’ve ever written, it’s not just she’s a strong woman, she’s an amazing, strong person.

This film indicates that women are not going to lie down and accept the injustices around them. Even if it makes them unlikable in their own communities, and even if they expose uncomfortable truths, women are ready to stand up to change the status quo. You should expect to see many more films follow McDonagh’s lead in the coming years.

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