Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Simply an outstanding movie experience.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, MissouriThree Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri  is a spectacular film that will challenge any competitor in this year’s Oscar race for best picture. As hard as it is to imagine, Director Martin McDonagh exceeded his accomplishments in both Seven Psychopaths (2012) and In Bruges (2008).

Frances McDormand, who will also likely be recognized in the best actress category, plays Mildred Hayes, a divorced mother in agony. Living in the small town of Ebbing, Missouri, she is left in a state of grief and self-loathing as she wrestles with her teenage daughter’s recent death. The young girl was raped and burned to death, and Mildred’s pain is intensified by the fact that the crime is unsolved.

As a result, Ms. Hayes rents three billboards outside of town where she criticizes the Chief of Police’s failure to find the killer of her daughter. The town’s emotional reaction turns it upside down.

In the explosion of turmoil that follows Mildred’s actions, society’s multiple prejudices seep to the surface. A dwarf (the accomplished Peter Dinklage) is ridiculed, a black woman is arrested simply because she is black and police brutality is excused while overlooked.

In the end, this is a powerful film that comes close to defining the human condition. A mother mourns a lost daughter while haunted by a family argument that led to her child walking to her death. While criticized for his perceived inaction, Woody Harrelson’s Police Chief is left wrestling with a terrible health condition and a crime that can’t be solved no matter how hard he tries. Harrelson has never been better as you watch him try to raise his two young girls with a caring wife (Abbie Cornish) while trying to simultaneously pacify an unrelenting grieving mother.

Among a number of small roles that make this film so memorable, you won’t forget the performances of John Hawkes, here playing Ms. Hayes’s ex-husband, and Caleb Landry Jones, excelling as a bright and somewhat sarcastic billboard employee. Mr. Hawkes hides a bit of charm while he is constantly in the company of his 19-year-old girlfriend while Mr. Jones is wildly both funny and clever while recognizing the important of valuing a dollar over controversy.

However, let’s face it, this movie belongs to both Ms. McDormand and Sam Rockwell, who also will challenge for a supporting actor nomination. Ms. McDormand’s performance is unique in every respect. Constantly wearing work clothes, no makeup and erupting in a vulgar four-letter onslaught, this is simply a commanding performance that you will never forget.

Though I loved Mr. Rockwell’s comic, heartwarming performance in The Way Way Back (2013), he is utterly unforgettable here as a smug, racist policeman. His Officer Dixon smolders like a human volcano ready to erupt with a poisonous lava, and there has never been a more unlikeable character brought with such style to the big screen since Ben Foster in last year’s Hell or High Water.

And speaking of High Water, keep the caustic performance of Margaret Bowman as the waitress in mind as you watch Sandy Martin’s memorable role as Rockwell’s reclusive mother. Both aging women are a force of nature.

Yet for all of the hate and anger that dominates this film, lurking under the surface is a bit of forgiveness. Like this year’s The Shack, Three Billboards teaches the importance of healing if we are going to find any degree of happiness in life. Whether it be a relative, friend or a pet, we all will experience a loss that will come close to destroying our ability to find a bit of joy in this wo

Sam Rockwell’s Dixon proves that inside every damaged human being is a warm heart and a caring soul.