I watched Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. It was nominated for a number of Oscars and won two. It received a number of other awards and was critically acclaimed.
I heard someone say it was based on a true story. Well, not really. I checked that out and it would seem that the movie story may have been inspried by a family that maintains a billboard in Texas to demand justice for a family member who was murdered. However, the movie story line is not that case. They only have the billboards in common.
Three Billboards was a rough movie to watch. Rape and brutal murder are rough topics. We don’t actually see that particular violence but we certainly see a lot of violence in its aftermath. But for me, this movie was about bigger themes — love, hate, suffering, and acceptance.
The main character, Mildred Hayes (played by Frances McDormand), is grieving the loss of her daughter whose rapist/murderer was never found. Mildred has obviously had some hard knocks — alcoholism, spousal abuse, a child murdered — and she is angry. She lashes out though the billboards, blaming the beloved town police chief for failing to make an arrest in her daughter’s case.
It was clear to me that she was stuck in her grieving process and stuck in the suffering from a desire to fix blame and exact retribution, but a brief flashback scene with her daughter confirmed for me that the person she blames most and cannot forgive is herself.
Sean Rockwell plays the part of a officer, Jason Dixon. He is reprehensible at first — ignorant, racist, intolerant, and violent. He takes far more offense at the billboards than their target, Chief Willoughby. Dixon turns completely (and this takes a bit of a leap of faith on the part of a viewer, but it is a movie) when he reads the posthumous letter from Willoughby. Willoughby tells him he sees his potential, which can be realized only if he gives up hate and does his work out of love.
The ending is ambiguous. I chose to see a softening of two hearts.
I thought Woody Harrelson was well cast and did an excellent job in this movie. Who would have thought, way back when, that out of the entire Cheers! ensemble it would be Woody?