Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
There is something to be said for a woman who doesn’t need your approval but demands your respect. Frances McDormand (Fargo, Burn After Reading) does it best as grieving mother Mildred Hayes in Martin McDonagh’s multiple prestigious award-winning project, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Trigger warning: It’s a movie one shouldn't see unless they are prepared for several graphic descriptions of sexual violence or domestic abuse.
I went to see this movie by myself, which was probably for the best. At the initial reveal of the third billboard’s message, I began thinking in bullet-point notes. There are many ways we can fight the good fight, like by posting a status that says #MeToo or addressing the sheriff of a town on a billboard. In today’s current climate of awareness around sexual misconduct, McDormand’s portrayal as a mother and a victim of domestic abuse brings life and raw energy to the collective voices of women overcoming pain.
This powerful message is further fueled by the vision of Anglo-Irish director and screenwriter, Martin McDonagh. In an interview with The Guardian (which also addresses some concerns about race relations in Three Billboards), McDonagh was asked about the inspiration behind Mildred’s brusque character. He said, “As a kid, I used to idolise actors like Marlon Brando and James Dean. I used to try to model myself on those men. And little girls just don’t have those kind of characters to emulate.”
Ultimately, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri jolted me in the most painful yet confounding way. I was torn between empathy and disgust at the amount of crudely humorous lines that most of the white, male characters such as Sheriff Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson (War for Planet of the Apes, Wilson), and Dixon, played by Sam Rockwell (F is for Family, The Dark Knight), were given.
As a woman looking forward to a future unsilenced, I was most affected by McDormand’s memorable performance, which put a metaphorical megaphone to my ear and said the words I hope to one day hear from society: Your pain and experiences are valid, and you deserve to be listened to.
Though this line wasn’t actually delivered to me during Three Billboards, I did get to witness how a small fictional town reacts to the disgusting murder and rape of a young citizen, and their reactions are nothing short of revealing. While it may be difficult for some viewers to digest the movie’s unfortunately commonplace subject matter, what made it worth it was the heaped reaction of a community to tragedy. While few were able to get through to Mildred, the entire town played a role in bringing the movie and fictional case to a close – albeit not one that I found satisfying or properly resolved. Still, I’m glad I bought myself a ticket to this jaw-dropping exposé of emotion, abuse, and accountability.
It may have taken three billboards to wake up a fictional sheriff to the unresolved mystery of Mildred’s daughter’s death, but the following sentiment (and my favorite line) from Mildred to a newscaster felt like enough to wake up even the most passive audience: “This doesn’t f***ing put an end to anything, it’s just the start. Why don’t you put that on your Good Morning Missouri f***ing wake-up broadcast, b***h.”