THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI: How people deal with grief and loss is intensely personal. That fact is intelligently played out when a bitterly heartbroken mother (Frances McDormand) resorts to public signage to call out the local sheriff (Woody Harrelson) for his lack of progress in her daughter’s (Kathryn Newton) murder investigation. Director Martin McDonagh’s (IN BRUGES) screenplay is an unusually effective combination of dark comedy, drama and sudden violence that occasionally goes over the top in terms of plausibility. In many ways, I was reminded of MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2016) where unexpected humor found its way into tragic circumstances. The dialogue, at times, sounded more stereotypically southern than what you might expect to hear in the rural Midwest. But this is the kind of movie where characters are so well-drawn up that even those in only a scene or two resonate in your conscious. Carter Burwell’s musical soundtrack is on-point throughout the work and Ben Davis’s opening shot of the trio of nearly abandoned, decaying boards shrouded in fog tells you all you need to know about the declining state of the title town. McDormand’s (See CLOSING CREDITS.) performance is a lock for a Best Actress Oscar nomination and she’s ably supported by Harrelson (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES) and especially Sam Rockwell (IRON MAN 2) as an alcoholic deputy with a penchant for violence and the inability to find his badge. A select few films succeed because you can’t categorize them into a particular genre. I think it can be said of this work which is highlighted by an excellent ensemble cast and uncompromising writing about how a person’s desire for justice/revenge become the motivation for her existence even as it eats away at her moral values and soul.

CRITIC’S GRADE: B+

CLOSING CREDITS: Here are some other excellent movies starring Frances McDormand – BLOOD SIMPLE (1984), RAISING ARIZONA (1987), MISSISSIPPI BURNING (1987)*, LONE STAR (1996), FARGO (1996)**, PRIMAL FEAR (1996), MADELINE (1998), ALMOST FAMOUS (2000)*, WONDER BOYS (2000), SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE (2003), NORTH COUNTRY (2005)*, FRIENDS WITH MONEY (2006), HAIL, CAESAR! (2016)

*Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actress

**Academy Award Winner for Best Actress