The world Martin McDonagh creates in his latest flick Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is one where there are no consequences for the horrible things we do to one another. It’s of course not necessarily a rule as some actions do carry consequences, but not in the traditional sense of how we expect those to be punished for things like–kicking children in their genitals, throwing people out of windows or throwing molotov cocktails at a police station. It’s also the type of world where the characters in spite of all their flaws and curt behavior to one another have an underlying care for one another that’s not uncommon amongst small town folk. It may only come out during some of the more dire situations and stuffed down even under duress, but it’s there and McDonagh encapsulates it brilliantly.
Several months following the brutal rape and murder of Angela Hayes her mother, Mildred (Frances McDormand) is struck suddenly with an outside-the-box idea while driving home along the highway where her daughter’s crime occurred. There, three tattered billboards stand, unused since the 80’s and Mildred wants to use them to send a message to the small town’s chief of police Bill (Woody Harrelson). The message is simple–that she hasn’t forgotten that no killer has been caught and wants answers. The billboards are innoffensive but concise and have an adverse effect on the police’s overall empathy for Mildred even as Bill regrets how the case turned out. They do however get the town stirred up which leads to the towns underlying tensions to manifest in wild and potentially dangerous ways.
Three Billboards is a film all about the relationships within a small town and how brilliantly subtle and explosive even the smallest moments can be. It’s also about injustice as well as inaction. McDonagh isn’t interested simply in pointing fingers so much as it’s about perception of the actions we expect from people in a position of power. There are tremendous moments of human interaction that will break your heart one moment and make your blood boil the next–similarly makes you rethink your reactions as characters true selves are revealed to be different from what you initially perceived.
McDonagh’s latest isn’t an in-your-face exercise of tension, but one of heart and all of the complicated emotions we endure at different moments in our lives. Throughout the course of the film we explore grief in its many stages, acceptance of our fate, anger by other’s actions of those we love and empathy for those we previously felt animosity toward. The script is whip smart, perfectly paced and with some beautifully tragic moments as well as wonderfully sweet interactions amongst the darkness of its overall plot. The only thing better is the powerhouse performance by Frances McDormand in all of her ferocious zingers and deep grief. Surrounded by an extraordinary cast that compliments McDonagh’s unique brand of dark humor.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri one of 2017’s finest offerings and does so with the razor sharp wit and infectious dialogue that we’ve come to expect from McDonagh. Utliziing pitch black humor in a story that’s already ripe with darkness the formula and endless affecting drama with raw emotions and sentimentality.