Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri‘ is positioning itself as the main favorite of the Academy Awards season, and if it will win some of the statuettes in the major categories it will be by merit. It is quite interesting that an Irish – British director succeeded to make such a sharp film about the territory that we know so little especially out of the US – the deep America, the one far of the glamour of the big cities or the sparks of high-tech. We should not be amazed however, as  is a very special kind of artist, a playwright of great talent who has gradually broadened the scope of his plays from the Irish history and political present to British realities, and later to more broader human topics. As a film director he started with a short film set in Ireland that won an Academy Award in 2006, while his next two feature films are set in Europe (In Bruges) and Hollywood (Seven Psychopaths). The story in ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri‘ takes place in the heart of America, I would almost say to the bleeding heart of the country, as the small city in Missouri can be seen as a micro-model of the complex realities of the US, with its prejudice and violence, but also with the humanity and power to heal of its people. The quality of the film making places it somewhere in-between or in the same league as the films of the Coen brothers and of Tarantino.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5027774

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5027774

 

Mildred ( ) is a hard working woman, divorced and living from a gift shop in a place not many tourists come to visit. When her teen-aged daughter is attacked, raped and killed she feels guilt at the thoughts that she could have prevented her death and anger at what seems to be foot-dragging from the local police force led by sheriff Willoughby (). She turns her anger into action by posting bug announces on advertising billboards on a side road, but in short time her actions will put her in conflict with the rest of the community.

There are many levels that the development of this story can be understood. People like Mildred (and not only her) are angry, and anger needs to be channeled into action. Does this action need to be violent? Does violence ever pay? Maybe this is one of the roots of the higher level of conflict and polarization that we detect when we observe the American society in general and small communities like the one described in the movie in particular. Then, in true life, nobody is a perfect saint and nobody is pure evil either. The sheriff is terminally sick which makes the whole community to side with him in his conflict with Mildred, and maybe his inaction is only apparent, maybe there are crimes which cannot be really solved but by chance. Life is not as presented in the ‘CSI’ TV series (although a CSI element does appear in the story!). Mildred’s actions seem all justified but do they have the effect that she desires, do they bring peace of mind, and especially do they bring closer the solution of the crime that took her daughter away? Can redemption be achieved by taking the law in your own hands or by punishing the committer of another crime?

 

(video source FoxSearchligh)

 

The script succeeds to bring to surface the characters and the environment they live in. Acting is superb. makes us forget all those discussions about the lack of strong feminine lead roles in Hollywood and she may be on her way to a deserved second Academy Award. He words, her looks, her silences are just to the mark. I liked her performance here more that ‘s one in ‘The Post‘. provides another strong performance, but the real great surprise is whose nuanced interpretation of the role of Dixon (the sheriff’s aid) was complex and subtle and succeeded to overcome one of the few weak points of the script, the change of perspective of his character.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri‘ is the best thing that I have seen until now in this pre-Academy Awards season. It makes the viewers immerse in the reality of the place it describes, it makes them think about the humanity that exists in each of us, about the need to act and the need to find peace of soul, about justice and vengeance and the difference between the two concepts. As with many good films its story and characters continue to be with us long time after the screening ends.