Every so often I head into a movie knowing very little about it. I don’t see the trailer, I don’t read any detailed reviews. What I do see are a lot of positive headlines in my movie related news feeds and I decide to just go for it. Last year I did the exact same thing with ‘Get Out’, which turned out to be my favourite movie of 2017. This year, for my first cinema trip of 2018, it’s the oddly titled ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’. Not quite as wonderful as Get Out, but a very enjoyable movie all the same.
The three billboards in question lie, unused since the 80s, on a barely used road leading to the home of Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand). While driving past them one day, she stops to ponder for a while, before heading into town to the advertising company responsible for the boards and renting them out for a whole year. The message she spreads across the three boards is a simple one, set to shame the local police force who she feels have become a bit slack when it comes to investigating the brutal rape and murder of her daughter seven months earlier. Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is named on one of the boards, a respected man of the town, who we later discover is suffering from cancer. Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) on the other hand is a man with problems, totally inept at his job, living at home with his momma and recently in trouble for beating up a black suspect.
The billboards have the desired effect, bringing the murder case to everyone’s attention once again and causing uproar around town. But Mildred is a force to be reckoned with, foul mouthed and out for vengeance, and she’s brilliant to watch. The movie effortlessly switches between laugh out loud sharp dialogue and gut wrenching emotional drama. Just when you think you’ve got the whole thing worked out, something major happens to shake things up again. It’s a hugely enjoyable roller-coaster ride.
One of the few things I saw before seeing this movie said that if you like Fargo, then you’ll enjoy this, and that’s a pretty fair assumption as far as I’m concerned. Interesting characters with interesting stories, beautifully told. I loved it.