Movie Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri might be one of the longest titled films of the year, but it is aptly named. The film follows a mother who in desperation for answers to her daughter’s murder purchases three billboards outside of town to hold the police accountable. The film was written and directed by Martin McDonagh, the creative mind behind In Bruges, and it stars Frances McDormand as the mother searching for answers. The dark comedy also stars Woody Harrelson as Police Chief Bill Willoughby and Sam Rockwell as police officer Jason Dixon. Some of the other supporting cast is comprised of John Hawkes, Lucas Hedges, Peter Dinklage, and Caleb Landry Jones.
The film begins with Mildred Hayes (McDormand) noticing three abandoned billboards on her way home. The idea strikes for her to buy the billboards for advertising purposes for the rest of the year, and on the billboards, she asks the police why no killer has been apprehended for her daughter’s murder. Officer Jason Dixon (Rockwell) and Chief Willoughby (Harrelson) become aware of the billboards’ contents quickly. Willoughby is sympathetic to Mildred’s plight but not thrilled with the strike against his character; however, Dixon’s response and violent nature escalate the situation. The resulting battle between Mildred and the Ebbing police department moves the film forward.
I am well aware that a dark comedic drama is not everyone’s style of film, but I immensely enjoyed this movie. It had elements that reminded me of Fargo, which made the casting of Frances McDormand absolutely perfect. Actually, the cast is part of the reason I loved this film as much as I did. Frances McDormand delivers on the angry and sometimes comedic nature of Mildred Hayes, but she also delivers on the gut wrenching moments of a mother still grieving her daughter. The character of Chief Willoughby seemed to be made specifically for Woody Harrelson, and he delivered on all of the surprising moments for that character. The other standout, though, is Sam Rockwell. He manages to pull off the comedic timing for Dixon, who is often an idiotic character, but he also brings some heart to his character as well.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this film, though, is the impressions left throughout the course of the film. Obviously the character of Mildred Hayes wants answers and is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve them. However, in the midst of this tale so marked with violence, there is also this theme of forgiveness and redemption. It is those kind of seeming contradictions that make this film a rarity. There are moments when it is fiercely bleak and grim, and in the next moment it is turned around by a moment of pure hilarity. Dark comedy is a difficult tone to set in a film, and yet this film does so beautifully with thought-provoking moments provided throughout the story.
While I really loved this film, I will warn that it is not for everybody. It is still rated-R and rightfully so with its use of language and the details of the daughter’s murder. However, for adults that enjoy a dark comedy, this is the film to see. It is brilliantly written, and it will probably end up as one of my top ten films of the year. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a surprising story that might be characterized by anger and violence but is ultimately defined by its themes of grief, forgiveness, and redemption.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.