Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a 2017 drama film written, produced, and directed by Martin McDonagh. It stars Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell. McDormand plays a mother who rents three billboards to call attention to her daughter’s unsolved murder. The film also stars Peter Dinklage as James, Kerry Condon as Pamela, Caleb Landry Jones as Red Welby, Abbie Cornish as Anne & Samara Weaving as Penelope.
Mildred, a grieving mother whose teenage daughter, Angela, was raped and murdered 7 months ago passes by three rundown billboards on a rarely used road just outside of the town of Ebbing. She goes to meet Red Welby and rents the boards for a year and pays the month’s rent in cash. The boards, once painted and fixed up reads, in sequence read “RAPED WHILE DYING”, “AND STILL NO ARRESTS?”, and “HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?”. This upsets the townsfolk, Chief Willoughby and racist officer Jason Dixon. Willoughby is dying of pancreatic cancer and the townsfolk’s sympathies lie with him and both Mildred and her son Robbie are harassed.
Willoughby visits Mildred and tells her he finds the boards unfair as he and his department have done everything to find the girl’s killer. Dixon threatens Red and arrests Mildred’s friend and coworker, Denise, on trivial marijuana possession charges. Mildred is also visited by her abusive ex-husband Charlie, who blames her for their daughter’s death. Even her dentist, who supports Willoughby, is hostile towards her and when he tries threaten her, Mildred uses his own drill and injures him. Willoboughy brings her in for questions but coughs up blood during the session and is taken to hospital. Later he spends an idyllic day at the lake with his wife and two young daughter and later kills himself in the barn.
Willoghby leaves suicide notes for several people, including one to Mildred, in which he explains that she was not a factor in his suicide, and that he secretly paid to keep the billboards up for another month, amused at the trouble this will bring her. Mildred is threatened by a stranger in her store. Dixon reacts to the news of Willoughby’s death by assaulting Red and his assistant. This is witnessed by Willoughby’s replacement, Abercrombie, who fires him. Mildred is devastated when the billboards are destroyed by arson and in retaliation she tosses Molotov cocktails at the police station, which she believes is unoccupied for the night. However Dixon who was in there to read a letter left for him by Willoughby, advising him to let go of hate and learn to love as the only way to realize his wish to become a detective, is burned but escapes.
Mildred’s acquaintance James witnesses the incident and provides Mildred with an alibi, claiming they were on a date. Dixon is treated for his burns and temporarily confined in the same hospital room as Red, to whom he apologizes. After he is discharged from the hospital Dixon is at a bar when he overhears the stranger who threatened Mildred bragging in a bar of an incident similar to Angela’s murder. Dixon stages an altercation with the dude and scratches him to get some of the man’s dna under his nails and sends it to be tested. He also notes the Idaho license plate number of the man’s vehicle. Meanwhile, Mildred goes on a date to thank James for the alibi; Charlie enters with his 19-year-old girlfriend Penelope, and admits to burning the billboards. Mildred instructs Charlie to treat Penelope well and leaves.
Abercrombie informs Dixon that the DNA sample does not match DNA found on Angela’s body, and that the man was overseas on military duty at the time of the murder. Mildred and Dixon conclude that the man must be guilty of some other rape, and set out for Idaho with a gun. On the way, Mildred confesses to him the police station fire; he replies without surprise. They express reservations about their mission, but agree to decide what to do on the way.
I hate that the movie ended that way not letting us know what they are going to do and if Angela’s murderer is ever found. Brilliant acting by the way with some stellar performances from an outstanding cast. 8.5 outta 10!