‘Three Billboards’ is a bleak piece of work

When the year starts, I try to make a list of movies that I want to see. As the year rolls along and it becomes clear what movies will be big during awards season, I add them to the list. I took ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ on and off of the list over the past few months, but I finally got a chance to see it. Boy, am I glad that I didn’t miss this one.

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Three Billboards’ as most people sum up the title as, is a gritty, dark feature about Mildred Hayes, a scorned mother of two whose daughter was raped, killed, and left in the dust by the local police department. It’s an interesting setting that sees racial, crime, and moral issues brought to forefront of a film set against a seemingly normal small town in the South.

Three Billboards 3The star of the show is Frances McDormand of ‘Fargo’ fame, portraying Hayes. She’s a revenge-filled, dark creature that places three billboards up just outside of her town that read “Raped while dying”, “And still no arrests?”, and “How come Chief Willoughby?” She might very well earn her second Academy Award for this performance, and after watching the movie for myself, I am pulling for her.

The story itself is not about discovering who killed Mildred’s daughter as much as it’s about the journey of acceptance that each of these characters have to take. Anger rules almost every person in the film, and they have to resolve that anger to reach the heights and forge a path forward.

Three Billboards 4The supporting performances by Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson can’t be overlooked. Rockwell’s character has a definite journey from dark to light as he struggles to find his purpose, while Harrelson, who plays Chief Willoughby, is an excellent sparring partner for McDormand in several key scenes. Harrelson’s signature style of dark comedy also plays a part here, and all those awkward jokes land well.

Though I hate to say it, ‘Three Billboards’ correctly captures the essence of the American South in a dark way. Maybe that’s why this picture resonates so much with me, since I do hail from Alabama. It left me emotionally drained and is intense in every sense of the word. If it’s still playing somewhere near you, go see it.

(I own no photos)