How Come, Chief Willoughby?

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
2017 | R | 1 Hr. 55 Min. | Comedy, Drama | Fox Searchlight

Director: Martin McDonagh

Writer: Martin McDonagh

Frances McDormand
Woody Harrelson
Sam Rockwell

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is a darkly comic drama from Academy Award nominee Martin McDonagh. After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter's murder case, Mildred Hayes makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby, the town's revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Dixon, an immature mother's boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing's law enforcement is only exacerbated.

In a simple word, Wow. Winner of four Golden Globes and with seven Oscar nominations, including two win's Three Billboards is well worth the hype. And as much as I loved McDormand's role Sam Rockwell playing a small-town racist cop was the role that moved me the most. Dixon (Rockwell) is introduced to us as an outspoken and lewd cop with a love for racial slurs who supposedly tortured the town's black prisoners in previous incidents is where the heart of this movie lies. 

What makes this role great of course is Dixon's good-heartedness emerging throughout the movie, which gives him nearly equal time onscreen as McDormand's character. After a series of personal tragedies, Dixon becomes a changed man and Three Billboards' unlikely hero. Rockwell deserved his Oscar win along with that Golden Globe. And to be honest I feel Woody Harelson was slightly underlooked as he knocked it out of the park as well. In fact, there is not one bad cast member through the film.

Don't get me wrong McDormand who won a Golden Globe for her performance and the Oscar for best leading lady, that I'm not disputing is well deserved. The character she portrays is so unapologetically and cold you can not help but root for her. As her allies disappear and those in power try to silence her, she only gets louder. And according to IMDB Frances McDormand was hesitant to take the role of Mildred when offered to her, but was eventually convinced by her husband, Joel Coen. She said, "Because at the time he gave it to me I was fifty-eight. I was concerned that women from this socioeconomic strata did not wait until thirty-eight to have their first child. So we went back and forth and we debated that quite for a while, and then finally my husband said, 'Just shut up and do it.'" And we are all glad she did. 

***Spoilers Ahead***

Despite the racial undertones and the touchy subject matter Billboards somehow in some way kicks you in the gut and warms your heart at the same time. Now fair warning this is an art-house style film so the ending. If you try to "solve" Three Billboards is to completely misunderstand what this movie is, or what it’s ultimately about. For one thing, the film doesn’t introduce one iota of evidence that any of these characters are guilty of the murder. It’s not a murder mystery or a whodunit. There are many things important to its plot and what it is as a film, and the identity of the murderer is not one of them. In fact, the very not-solving of the murder is perhaps the key to its ending.

4 out of 5 Stars


  1. We really enjoyed this movie too. You're right -- it is a complex and mature movie that, like the real world, has no easy answers and no pat solutions.

  2. I had mixed feeling about this movie - it seemed to me it was about justice and redemption but the characters committed such heinous acts it was hard to forgive them. Really, I got to the end of the movie not liking any of them particularly. However, I do agree that it was brilliantly acted and very thought provoking. The ending surprised me too. In this day of cookie cutter movies one can read in the first fifteen minute, being surprised is a gift.