The rage and lust for justice spawned by murder and sexual assault are at the forefront of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”. Director Martin McDonagh (“Seven Psychopaths” and “In Bruges”) shows his skill of combining tragedy and comedy without glorifying the subject matter.
The story is centered around Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) months after her daughter, Angela (Kathryn Newton), was raped and murdered. Mildred, unsatisfied with the police’s investigation into her daughter’s case, rents three billboards to display her feelings for the world to see.
Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is called out for arrests not being made in the investigation. This also sets the local police force and most of the town’s inhabitants against Mildred, but she doesn’t stop there. Plenty of violence, comedy, and heartfelt emotion are part of the aftermath of the billboards.
Actions have a big part to play in the story. One person’s actions can have a dramatic effect on other people. Sitting around will not solve your problems. While many rash actions are taken by Mildred to find justice, the end message is clear that sometimes you must scream to be heard.
On the same note, morality plays a big part in making characters feel real. Right and wrong can be subjective and changes from the different characters’ perspective. Mildred thinks it’s right to put up signs calling out the Sheriff for not solving the case. While from Sheriff Willoughby’s perspective, he’s done everything he’s legally allowed to and just has to hope more evidence comes up. It’s refreshing to see a film with opposing sides not paint one as completely good and the other as completely bad.
Some outcomes of events feel too good to be true, though. For instance, Mildred commits multiple crimes, and while she always finds an excuse they consistently let her go and seem to avoid going after her as a suspect. Though the outcomes may feel unbelievable at moments, it doesn’t detract from their impacts and importance.
The acting from the entire cast was excellent and made the story really come to life. Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson both gave some of their best performances. Sam Rockwell as Officer Jason Dixon gave a fantastic performance as somewhat of a clown of a character. Along with some strong supporting actors such as Willoughby’s wife Anne, played by Abbie Cornish, Caleb Landry Jones as the man who rents the billboards to Mildred, Lucas Hedges as Mildred’s son dealing with his sister’s death, and John Hawkes as Mildred’s crude and abusive ex-husband.
Director Martin McDonagh deftly weaves comedy into the compelling and poignant moments, ensuring everything doesn’t end up feeling too melancholic.
With fleshed out characters, hard-hitting moments and plenty of humor along the way, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” deserves to be seen and pondered by everyone.