Movie Review: '3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri'

John Thomas, Movie Critic
FRANCES MCDORMAND in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a winner at the Toronto International Film Festival.

How far would a parent go for closure at the loss of a child? Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) has lived with the question of who raped and murdered her daughter for seven months after the crime was committed. Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is at a loss to find the perpetrator of this heinous crime. Mildred, however, finally believes she has a solution – escalate! Keep the investigation alive, put pressure on the sheriff for a solution and remind the townspeople that the guilty have yet to been found.

On her way home one afternoon, she notices three abandoned billboards outside of town. Her plan begins to develop. The next day she appears at the office of the owners of the billboards with three different messages she’d like to have placed on each one. Mildred pays the first months rent and the sparks begin to fly. Everyone in town is outraged at the three messages, yet still feel compassion for Mildred. The dim-witted officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) lashes out at the billboards and most everything and everyone else in town with reckless abandon.

Chaos reigns around Mildred. The residents of Ebbing try to deal with her plight, the anger and frustration she feels toward their lack of interest is finding those responsible for her daughters death. A mysterious visitor from Idaho appears on the scene and becomes the number one suspect. What if the rapist isn’t a local, Mildred wonders? He soon disappears, leaving no solution behind.

Mildred’s ex-husband, rather that comfort her, only adds to her burden and raises her level of anxiety. This is due in part because his new partner is much younger. Her only support comes from her son, yet he too finds it occasionally difficult to support her – Mildred is a little crazy/wild at times. Encouragement and support finally come to her from an unexpected source, a complete surprise to everyone concerned. Finally there is someone who believes in her plight and her need to draw closure to the months-long anguish she’s lived with.

Should a visitor to the United States, who only visits New York, Los Angeles or Las Vegas, still wonder what the rest of middle America is like, they should go see this film. It is a slice-of-life look into the small, rural communities that dot the landscape between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

With a run time of 110 minutes, this movie directed by Martin McDonagh is a “must see.”


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