OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
A hit at the 2018 Academy Awards, with Frances McDormand snapping up the Best Actress Oscar for her powerful portrayal of a mother trying to get justice for her deceased daughter, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri certainly came out at exactly the right time.
Along with Get Out, Three Billboards was arguably the most relevant Best Picture nominee in terms of how it mirrors struggles within current society. Mildred Hayes (McDormand), a tough, driven, intimidating mother with a troubled past but a very clear and positive goal in mind, could be seen as the embodiment of American activism while disgraced and bigoted police officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), a simple-minded slacker with a lot of bottled-up anger but also a lot of potential, could be an extreme on the side of power.
Between them is Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), a well-meaning yet ultimately powerless cop who happens to be dying but whose words inspire both parties. As Mildred and Dixon go head-to-head, the town of Ebbing slowly dips into chaos as the controversial billboards, which were put up by Mildred in order to bring attention to her daughter's rape, are set on fire and the inevitable retaliation takes place, with shocking results.
The cast is consistently impressive and the film's Oscar nominations (and wins) were certainly deserved: everyone from Harrelson to Rockwell, Peter Dinklage and, of course, McDormand delivers subtle, thoughtful and layered performances of a calibre you rarely see in mainstream Hollywood cinema. The film tackles some tough themes but it does so in an intelligent and unique way, without coming off as far too preachy or clumsy. Something that a film like Crash, for example, failed to achieve some years ago. This is a gorgeously shot, sharply written drama that aims to be thought-provoking without giving any concrete answers by the end.
This might sound frustrating but having the main character arcs culminate in a question mark that could be interpreted as a sort of redemption or something darker, brings nuance to two complex characters in dire need of direction who happen to converge through a common, if unconfirmed, goal. Whether this truce can last or even take place, remains up to the viewer.
Few films, if any, were quite as well crafted, masterfully acted and timely as Three Billboards in 2017. It's a conversation-starter about interesting, imperfect characters and it goes in certain directions you might not expect so it's definitely a worthwhile experience, to say the least.