A mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter's murder when they fail to catch the culprit.
THE REVIEW: All I knew about this film before I entered the theater was seeing this image online and being instantly grabbed. What a terrific premise; the name lined up with that still and I said say no more — I wanted to know what the story behind the billboards was.
Three Billboards is by no means a perfect film, but nevertheless it is an engrossing film. No character in this film can be described as innocent, not grieving mother Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), nor the racist asshole Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), nor the police chief William Willoughby (Woody Harrleson) who the billboards call out for inaction on Mildred’s daughter’s rape and murder case. Complicated doesn’t even begin to describe this small mid-western town in Missouri and the lives of the locals. Everything is interrelated and one tug on the spider’s web of relationships in Ebbing causes an unraveling that is scary to watch.
Acting is what carries this film, but it’s also this intricate story that helps propel the performances. McDormand is a lock for Best Actress, and rightfully so (though I’ve yet to see Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird). Mildred Hayes decides early on in the film she won’t idly sit by and watch nothing be done about her daughter’s rape and death. Three Billboards begins almost a year after those events take place and it’s clear that Mildred is done waiting. She is taking this case into her own hands and will do what it takes to get answers, no matter how dirty things get. Mildred is caring and understanding but is also extremely vindictive — a combination that leads to a roller coast of emotion. On paper she is the one to root for, no ifs, ands, or buts. But, her actions are not without consequence and the power of this film is it gets us to question many aspects of life.
How does one ensure justice in the name of the daughter? Can a brutal, and brutally racist, cop be redeemed for past actions? Does turning a blind eye and inaction make you culpable? To whom?
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is unrelenting. It’s a story that can be boiled down into three billboards — one simple question about why there have been no arrests for the rape an murder of a teenage girl. A simple premise full of complexities, full of questions. Perhaps my overall praise for the film has been shifted due to the sheer amount of accolades this film has been nominated for, and received — would I call this the best film of the year if I randomly saw it with no outside context? Maybe not. But I remain intrigued after seeing it, the performances were truly top-notch (no debate there), and I have a feeling this will stick with me and others who see it. As of now, it would be my top pick for the Best Picture Oscar.
THE RATING: 5 out of 5