Starring: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage
Director: Martin McDonagh
Screenplay: Martin McDonagh
Cinematography: Ben Davis
Editor: Jon Gregory
Score: Carter Burwell
First, we must understand McDonagh for what he is– an incredibly talented playwright and screenwriter, and second, we must keep in mind his style– deadpan, dark humor, blood-spattered fictional stories. His characters always crescendo into Greek-like modern-day dramas– most of his stories could never be true, and in many ways are impossible and ridiculous. And for some of us, that is the very thrill of his storytelling– it is so wacky you don't ever really know where it will go and how it will end. McDormand's plays Mildred Hayes, a distraught mother seeking to right the wrong of her daughter's murder– an impossible feat– no such pain can be amended. However, Hayes rightfully goes after the Chief of Police for leading a sluggish investigation and sets up three billboards outside of town calling him out, for which she receives a lot of backlash from the townspeople for calling out a man and a policeman, specifically. We learn that the Chief is a kind man that really wants to help this woman, but can't. McDonough has a way of painting even his most twisted characters in a sweet light at some point in his films– which I think is a masterful way to depict the complexities of the human spirit. Most of his antagonists are twelve-year-old fully grown momma's boys, who often feel incredibly victimized themselves despite being straight white men. It's hilarious. Mildred Hayes' character and story probably made many women around the world feel satisfied to see a no-fucks-given force of nature woman seeking to right a wrong. In the current political climate of the United States (and world) where all these sickening stories of men in positions of power abusing women have come out, she is a heroine for a lot of us.
It's also worth mentioning, on a final note, that McDonagh did not fall prey to sensationalism and despite the bloody nature of his scripts, didn't once show Mildred Hayes' daughter being murdered or raped, which I think speaks volumes about his personal style.
Academy Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress (McDormand), Best Supporting Actor (Rockwell), Best Supporting Actor (Harrelson), Best Original Music Score, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing