Review of 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri'

three_billboards.jpg Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) is increasingly upset at the lack of progress in the police department over the tragic death of her daughter a year earlier so hires three billboards on a side-road outside of town to be papered with her message to the police: “Raped while dying”, “And still no arrests?” and “How come, Chief Willoughby?” This quickly causes a stir in the small town and the chief (Woody Harrelson), in the late stages of incurable pancreatic cancer, visits Hayes to calmly explain that despite their best efforts they have been unable to find those responsible. Things quickly spiral out of control as Mildred faces increasingly hostile criticism including from her ex-husband Charlie (John Hawkes) and Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), a police officer with a drinking problem and reputation for racial violence. When the chief takes his own life things begin to get a bit violent…

Though this is billed as a “dark comedy” I would suggest it is far more the former than the later. There are some serious, nasty issues tackled here with brutal honesty…and equally brutal violent behaviour. “Three Billboards” talks about some difficult truths of modern society but at the same time, there is a story here of redemption and, possibly, resolution. The plot is relatively simple with the focus here being on the main characters and how Mildred's actions force a sleepy town into dramatic and conclusive action though the ending is delightfully ambiguous.

The acting is top notch with all of the cast putting in amazing performances. Woody Harrelson playing perhaps surprisingly contrary to type here as a compassionate cop struggling to do the right thing and keep everyone happy. Sam Rockwell is the most dynamic of the characters as he struggles to come to grips with his own prejudice (and his mother's) and come to his senses. It is of course Frances McDormand in the leading role that really shines as she pushes to find some closure in the tragic loss of her daughter, a nuanced performance that manages to captivate with more than just words but with body language and facial expression.

This film won a bunch of awards and it is easy to see why: Compelling story, great performances and enough action to keep viewers entertained. Well worth a watch.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2021-01-29

Directed by: Martin McDonagh

Studio: Blueprint Pictures

Year: 2017

Length: 115 minutes

Genre: Melodrama