Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is directed by Martin McDonagh who previously brought us films such as In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. Both great films in their own right and as you can probably tell from all the awards and nominations it’s been picking up, Three Billboards is no different. It tells the story of a mother played spectacularly well by Frances McDormand who personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder.
Now when you think about some of the greatest writers and directors of recent years, you’ll probably come to realise that every single one of them has some kind of trademark. So for example if you watch a Tarantino film, he tends to exaggerate the violence in a lot of his movies. The man has a disturbing obsession for blood squibs, don’t really know what that’s all about, but we’ll leave that to the psychiatrists of the world to figure out.
With Martin McDonagh I’d say that he’s now mastered the use of dark humour and I saw an interview with him actually where he said that this comes from the way that he looks at the world. You might see something grim and upsetting, but you can’t do anything about it, if you let it get you down. We often turn to humour not necessarily to gloss over something upsetting, but more so as a coping mechanism.
Three Billboards can have you in fits of laughter one minute and close to tears the next, if that’s not evidence of great writing than I don’t know what is. It’s the kind of film where you just cannot predict what’s going to happen next and that’s just such a rare quality nowadays. The success this film has had on the award circuit so far is well deserved, there’s no doubt about that, but I have to say I’m stunned that the academy have taken so well to it. Usually, it’s always the more factual ‘based on a true story’ films that tend to clean up at the awards, so I’ve got to say it’s a real breathe of fresh air to see an original dark comedy do so well for itself.
The film’s ending is somewhat ambiguous and the lack of closure is bound to frustrate some viewers. But the impression that I got from Three Billboards was that it didn’t matter so much about the destination, it was more to do with the journey. There’s all kinds of messages you can take away from it, like sometimes your worst enemies can end up being your closest friends. And if someone wishes to make amends for terrible things they’ve done or said, would we not be as bad as them to deny them that shot at redemption.
This isn’t the kind of film where you go home, sleep and forget about it. It lingers for quite some time afterwards, striking up discussions and puzzling you for days with all kinds of moral dilemmas. So if you get the chance I would definitely recommend checking this out, especially if you’ve enjoyed any of the previously mentioned films from Martin McDonagh. I would go as far as to say this is his best yet and he manages to get some terrific performances out of Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson.