There are few films that are able to resonate with audiences as strongly as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. I found Three Billboards to be a film that is a prominent example on how cinema can transports viewers into a world that captivates them with the conflicts of unlikeable yet relatable characters. The movie presents the stories of a trio of complex characters and the effects of their actions. Martin McDonagh, the writer and director of Three Billboards, is known for his works that handle morbid and appalling themes, and Three Billboards is certainly not an exception.
The plot involves a mother named Mildred, who protests the lack of progress in the case of her daughter, who was simultaneously raped and murdered, with three billboards. Each billboard has its own message that expresses her disdain for the local police and its inept investigation into the crime. The billboards upset the residents of Ebbing, a perpetually antiquated town in which residents are indifferent when using racist and homophobic slurs. Mildred faces opposition from the town, her family, and the police. While it sounds like this movie is about how a good-natured woman fights for her beliefs like Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Three Billboards contains a series of abhorrent and unpredictable events. Mildred’s actions, along with deuteragonists Police Chief Willoughby’s and Officer Dixon’s, can be so erratic and despicable that I found myself completely paralyzed in my seat with denial and horror. McDonough is one of the most powerful directors working today, but his filmmaking alone would not have made this film as great as it is. A significant strength of this film is the acting, which was the determining factor of the movie’s success.
The performances are all fundamentally based on the characters’ flaws and underlying emotional struggle. Frances McDormand plays Mildred, who appears to be a vulgar,no nonsense activist in the town. McDormand plays Mildred with underlying emotional agony in the film, and she brilliantly highlights Mildred’s humanity in the film’s more tender scenes. I was familiar with McDormand’s acting in her Oscar-winning role as Police Chief Marge Gunderson in Fargo. As Marge Gunderson, she was polite, innocent and does her work by the book. However, Billboard’s Mildred is almost the exact opposite: she is tormented, caustic and occasionally violent. Not once was I reminded of her naive role in Fargo, which exemplifies McDormand’s remarkable range as an actress. Woody Harrelson, who plays Chief Willoughby, also delivers a remarkable portrayal of one of McDonagh’s characters. His character suffers from terminal cancer, and Harrelson plays his character with a hidden desire to be remembered in any way other than as a tragic cop with cancer. Sam Rockwell does an outstanding job of portraying Officer Dixon, the ostensible epitome of the police’s racism, incompetence, and abusiveness. All three of these actors have been nominated for Oscars, and the nominations are well earned as they have some of the most complex, relatable and sympathetic performances I’ve seen this year.
There is large speculation on whether or not Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri deserves should have won Best Picture at the Oscars. The Best Picture award is considered to be the most prestigious honor and is only reserved for what the Academy considers to be films that have the greatest influence on the audience. I’d say Three Billboards certainly deserves Best Picture in that case, as it has a greater influence on moviegoers than the other contenders has this year. Many political movements have used this film as inspiration for their protests. For instance, activist group Avaaz, which fights for stricter gun control laws, had three vans with three different messages that strongly resemble the text on the film’s billboards,revolving around a senator’s office. In addition, the #OccupyJustice movement posted their own three billboards in Malta to proclaim injustice against the murder of reporter Daphne Galizia. These protests show that the film struck a chord with activists throughout the world, as they were inspired by Mildred’s methods to achieve justice. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a profound film that resonates with its audience, which is why it will be remembered as a classic.