“Three billboards” are present in the title of this film, three billboards open and close the story and three billboards are the silent protagonists of this case, so touching and strong that it deserves to be narrated even through billboards, not only 3, but many more.
The film follows the point of view of Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), a mother who, 7 months after the rape and the murder of her daughter Angela, 7 months of the police not acting as it should to identify the killer, decides to start a personal war against the quiet town of Ebbing: she posts three accusing billboards against the law enforcement and their commander in particular, Sheriff Will Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), hoping in this way to move consciences and finally discover the truth.
The chaos that is generated by this decision, with the stories of the secondary characters, makes the film engaging from start to the end and it offers much dramatic and unfortunately realistic food for thought, which leaves us with a sour taste: what is the limit between justice and crime? When hate becomes revenge? And how much the strength of a woman has to be tested and judged before being understood and, if possible, helped?
The story is inspired by a real fact that happened to the director and screenwriter, Martin McDonagh, as he revealed during the press conference of the film at the 74th Venice Film Festival: “While I was on a bus traveling to America I saw similar billboards, it was something painful, dark and tragic and I wondered who could have affixed such painful signs where so much anger was clear.”
The cast, together with the screenplay and the general comedy-drama’s tone, is one of the film’s elements of strength: starting with a masterful Woody Harrelson, passing through a Peter Dinklage who does, as they say, “Little but good”, up to the problematic and racist agent Dixon (Sam Rockwell); and of course there is, Frances, who gives voice and heart to a Mildred who could very well be the emblem of any mother who waits to discover the identity of the monster that has taken away her most precious thing in life. Mildred in her fight against the common opinion becomes almost a giant; actually, she does definitely become a giant, morally speaking.
About Mildred, Martin McDonagh said: “Writing a character like this one is certainly very exciting, you never know where s/he could get you and, much less, how viewers could react to his actions. And I think this is the strength of the film: its authenticity. Mildred Hayes struggles in the name of truth and justice, even if she could seem even dangerous on certain occasions. And I can’t imagine right now a more suitable actress than Frances to interpret that kind of integrity and vulnerability, her being so sharp and ironic. “
McDonagh’s style is immediately recognizable, always tiptoeing on the line between comical, irreverent and dramatic, always taking aback the audience at every scene. The already mentioned cast upholds and raises such style, surely, also, thanks to the past and already well-tested complicity with Harrelson and Rockwell. McDormand succeeds in improving that style that made her famous, the style of her husband and her brother-in-law: the Masters of dark-comedy, the Coen Brothers. Ultimately, this movie is forced somehow to face the Coens’ work. Not only for the lead actress, but also for the genre and, mostly, for the music: the composer Carter Burwell is indeed a longtime partner of the Coen Bros. He improved his skills and his mastery in seizing the different facets of directing, escalating every single feeling through the sound. Also, in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Burwell was able to create an intense and touching soundtrack, already awarded as Best Music at the BIFA 2017.
The film has already achieved a great success, and to prove it, in addition to the box office, there are the Awards obtained at the Venice Film Festival as Best Screenplay and at the TIFF, where it received the People’s Choice Award (the most prestigious award), also and especially the numerous nominations received for the imminent Awards Season 2018: from the Golden Globes, to the SAG awards, through the Spirit Awards, the Satellite Awards, the Critics Choice Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards (the most recurring nominations are those for Best Actress, Best Acreenplay, Best Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell and Best Film). We are sure that to this list we will add more than one (well deserved) Academy Awards nomination.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a statement of life, of will, of suffering and of how unpredictable destiny is. But more than anything else, it is a story of true hope: a sentiment that we must never abandon, even in the most difficult times, because besides it, what else is left for us to believe in tomorrow?