Character arcs can add so much to storytelling on a cinematic level. Usually stories set up characters and maintain the assigned characteristics throughout the narrative. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri becomes a fascinating experience because of the way these characters are shaped up in the entire process. The way this movie transforms from being a system versus common man plot in to a character driven drama with black humor is quite an experience.
Mildred Hayes’ daughter died in a rape murder. The mother is yet to get justice and the inability of the police department to hunt down the culprit agitates her. The furious and frustrated mother decides to use three of the unused billboards near her home to intentionally provoke the police for their incapability to find the murderer. What happens after the placing of these billboards is what Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri talking about.
You can’t narrow this down to yet another system versus common man conflict. In a way this movie is showing us the helplessness and regret of characters on both sides. Mildred is haunted by the memories of her daughter and there is a thought that if she wasn’t that rude to her daughter, she could have been with her. The other crucial character is Sheriff Willoughby who has a health condition that also bothers him along with the unfairness he feels in Hayes’ accusation. The third important character is Jason Dixon who is pretty much a stupid moron police officer who ultimately evolves over a lot of incidents that breaks his mindset. These three fascinating characters and the way they some of them evolves to be stronger makes Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri an engaging character exploration.
Martin McDonagh uses black humor so effectively. While he makes you laugh to the situations that arises due to the loudness and roughness of the characters, that sense of humor is adding more life to those emotions. Like Willoughby’s letters to Mildred, his wife and Dixon has humor, but it shows the softer and humane side of that guy. The Karma driven character arc of Dixon was also interesting to watch. The screenplay is well balanced and doesn’t try to grim over a particular area of the narrative. It has a rhythm due to the way we get to see the characters shaping up. The decision they take at the end broadens the meaning of justice from mere revenge. Ben Davis’ cinematography uses the landscapes to a great extend to convey the darkness. He uses handheld continuous shots to convey the chaotic mindset and that whole sequence where we get to see Welby getting thrown out of the window by Dixon was executed fabulously.
Frances McDormand is fabulous as the badass deterministic mother. What I liked about her performance is that there is a limitation in being over expressive due to the default nature of the character. But within those constrains, she manages to add emotions to that character. The always bad guy Woody Harrelson here also gets to play a character of antagonistic shades, but like I said this character also has a story which makes him more human and Harrelson carries the role effortlessly. Sam Rockwell also delivers a brilliant portrayal of a police officer whom you can’t really like in the first place. But Rockwell makes the transformation of this character so believable that you sort of tend to understand the reasons behind his eccentricity. The remaining characters in the film also have a memorable structure to their credit even if the screen time they have got is brief.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is one movie I think Indian commercial film makers should watch. We have been making revenge based films ever since these rape murders started to become news in our country. We made the same thing again and again and concluded films with slogans or statistics. But with Three Billboards Martin MacDonagh made a fabulous film out of that thought.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri becomes a fascinating experience because of the way these characters are shaped up in the entire process.