This film has been something of a sensation. Frances McDormand swept the board at the major award ceremonies, winning the Best Actress Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe. It won Best Film and Original Screenplay for Martin McDonagh at the BAFTAs and Golden Globes. Amazingly, given the setting, it qualifies as British so was also able to take the BAFTA for Outstanding British Film.
It is a darkly comic drama from previous Oscar winner Martin McDonagh (In Bruges). After months have passed without the police identifying the culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes (McDormand) makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson), the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement is only exacerbated.
The setup promotes an Old West-like showdown in which the law and a person gone rogue square off. But McDonagh flicks aside the crowd-pleasing obviousness of that. He’s pursuing a more complex narrative terrain and that’s reflected, once again, in his multi-dimensional characters, all of whom exist in a gray moral territory. In McDonagh’s careful hands, it’s a Cirque du Soleil-like tightrope walk, gracefully balancing the harrowing with the humorous.
As with all McDonagh’s movies, Three Billboards is superbly cast. Frances McDormand nestles deep into the hard-shelled soul of Mildred, a woman seething with fury over the loss of her daughter who was raped and murdered. It’s a role few, if any, could play with the unwavering commitment and intensity of McDormand; it adds one more exclamation point to her accomplished career. And Rockwell nails his character, and has the film’s toughest challenge, as Dixon undergoes changes, which he accomplishes so adroitly.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall