British-Irish playwright and film director Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has earned seven Oscar nominations including Best Picture (interestingly, not Best Director) in 23rd of January 2018. This is his third silver screen piece written and directed by him, also nominated for the Best Original Screenplay in the same 90th Academy Awards.
A neurotic mother Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) whose young daughter is raped and killed feloniously seven months ago feels defeated by the lack of any progress on the case and no arrests by police. She believes that police department is too much busy with arresting and torturing colored people rather than solving her daughter’s murder. Therefore, she makes her way to the local advertising agency of the town, and hires these three billboards that are located right out of the town across a God forgotten traverse. And here starts the movie then! She puts up the following three sentences in three billboards separately:
“RAPED WHILE DYING”
“AND STILL NO ARRESTS?”
“HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?”
They are emphasized by a striking black, bold, all caps text on a blood-red background which look quite odd and disturbing against the pastoral tones of the sky and trees, as intended plausibly. Moreover, the selection of the billboards and these particular colors are the main metaphors of the movie itself.
There is nothing surprising from the point of the writer (and director) McDonagh since The Beauty Queen of Leenane, his play in 1996. There is this apparently neurotic lady in the front and a story around that. However, when digged, the underlying problem comes to light in several aspects:
Sometimes what we see on the surface is different from what others may feel in depth…
McDonagh has strengthened his proficiency in asking questions during all these years and all the way from his plays. Although there is an important weak point in the plot (cannot give a clue not to spoil), his noteworthy success in writing is his ability to get the audience to ask questions about the situations and people’s reactions to them in a neutral manner.
The tone exclusively is rough but not tiresome. Probably, Ben Davis (cinematography) has a major and positive impact on that. A flavor of “A Serious Man (Coens, 2009)” can be sensed overall. It may be due to these photography comparison as the latter was by Roger Deakins with whom Davis had the opportunity to work in the past. Slow tempo songs and predominantly The Last Rose Of Summer performed by Renee Fleming can also support this similarity for its resemblance to the Coens’.
McDormand’s acting is flawless as always. However, it is not very much clear whether her perfect voice and pronunciation -as not expected from such a character- is either part of the directing or an unscheduled left out.
Both Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell are performing very well. In terms of cogency, Woody Harrelson was one step further.
This Oscar nominated movie written, directed, and produced by McDonagh is made available under the wings of Fox Searchlight Pictures within Fox Entertainment group owned by 21st Century Fox (such as the competing 90th Academy Award nominee, The Shape of Water).
One can feel uncomfortable while watching this film, however cannot judge either of the parties or take sides since there is always this distance kept in the script. Worth seeing!..