Review: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Falin Hakeem, Staff Reporter

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Instead of being named “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh’s controversial yet highly appraised film should be named “Seven Oscar noms inside Dolby Theatre” – this may be a bold statement, I might’ve been inspired by Frances McDormond’s outspokenness, but “Three Billboards” rightly deserves to win every category it’s nominated for.

The film is about a mother named Mildred Hayes, (Frances McDormond) whose teenage daughter named Angela was raped and killed seven months prior. Angela’s case was never reopened by the police department, and now Mildred is taking matters into her own hands by renting three abandoned billboards near her home to bring attention to the case again, in which she succeeds.

Each billboard is painted in bright red with black bold lettering, with a saying on each one. The billboards are meant to be read in a chronological sequence; the first one says “Raped while Dying” followed by “And Still No Arrests?” and finally “How Come, Chief Willoughby?”

Mildred and her son Robbie, played by Lucas Hedges, soon attracts a lot of negative publicity by the townspeople of Ebbing, Chief Deputy of the Police Department Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) and Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell).

An empathetic Willoughby confronts Mildred about the billboards, revealing to her that he has pancreatic cancer – which she and everyone else in town already knew. This adds insult to injury because he is so beloved by all the townspeople as well as his team, who believe Mildred and these billboards are making his condition worse. On the other hand, Officer Dixon, an abusive racist who lives with his mother, goes through great lengths to take Mildred and her billboards down.

My favorite part of the film was hands down McDormond’s performance as Mildred. No one can do outrageously unapologetic like she can. She managed to make you laugh during such a deeply raw, violent and hopeless place whether it was her intention or not. Every time I saw the trailer to this film I thought to myself why is this lady angry in every scene? And why is this film nominated for so many awards? I had to see why she was insulting everyone that crossed her path – and I’m truly glad that I did.  

There were so many aspects of the film that I truly appreciated, especially all the twists and turns – the whole time I was on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen next. Waiting to see what Mildred would do, how she would prevail against everything and everyone who wanted her dead, such as Officer Dixon, whose transformation in the film changed the course of how this tragic story unfolds.

The ending of the film was perhaps the most satisfying part. “Three Billboards” was painful to watch because it was all too real, like something that has been waiting to be unleashed for a very long time. Like Mildred herself, McDonagh’s masterpiece is an underdog that you truly root for from beginning to end.

Rating: 5/5 stars