Strong, brave, fed up with bullshit, and desperate for justice, Mildred Hayes might be 2017’s Woman of the Year. After months have passed without an arrest in her daughter’s murder, Mildred (Frances McDormand, Moonrise Kingdom) makes a bold move, postering three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson; The Glass Castle, The Edge of Seventeen, Seven Psychopaths), the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command, Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell; Seven Psychopaths, Moon)—an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence—gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement escalates.
Martin McDonagh has created a darkly comic drama that is smart, narratively unpredictable, and filled with superb performances. As with McDonagh’s previous work (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) the focus of Three Billboards is on character-driven plot. Even McDonagh’s most irredeemable characters are momentarily sympathetic and evolving, allowing us to embrace the hopefulness that implies.
On its surface, Three Billboards is a film about grief, forgiveness, anger and resilience. Yet McDonagh layers in myriad observational moments about racism, war, sexism and a deeply divided society, all captured in this fictional Missouri town. Ever present is a low-simmering tension that occasionally bursts into violence but always in the service of releasing emotion that a character is unable to articulate.
“Those familiar with McDonagh’s work will be unsurprised to learn that Three Billboards is a bold and showboating affair, robustly drawn and richly written; a violent carnival of small-town American life. Yet is has a big, beating heart, even a rough-edged compassion for its brawling inhabitants.” (Xan Brooks, The Guardian)
“Not only is Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri the director’s most accomplished film yet, it’s also his most compassionate.” (Ben Croll, Indiewire)
“While the film continues almost throughout to generate great whoops of shocking laughter, it’s the notes of genuine sorrow, compassion and contrition that resonate.” (David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter)