If you have not seen Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, go do so. I will not refuse to speak to you if you don’t, but really, I say this because it’s the best film I’ve seen this year.
I see a good number of light-weight comic book movies, and I love them–I used to edit comic books, I write science fiction and fantasy. I enjoy a good explosion or a superhero slugfest as much as the next pop-culture-addicted woman. And some of the films I’ve seen this year use the fantastic to go deeper–Wonder Woman, Coco, The Last Jedi, and certainly The Shape of Water. But sometimes you want something grounded in the world. Dunkirk pulled off the trick of being epic in scale and simultaneously deeply personal; both it and Darkest Hour pull off that difficult trick with historical films: maintaining tension for a watcher who knows how the story came out (seriously, during Darkest Hour I was wildly frustrated with the politicians who wanted to make peace with German: “Guys, it’s Adolf Hitler!“). If I were to come up with one thing that ties all of these films, it’s courage, courage of various sorts, courage as nobility.
Three Billboards is in a class of its own. No one in the film is particularly noble, and the courage on display is not world-changing. The film is about anger and grief, and how uncomfortable we are with those emotions in other people. But it’s not an uncomfortable film. It’s funny and savage and never goes precisely where you expect. And it’s filled with extraordinary performances: Frances McDormand is always marvelous, as is Woody Harrelson. And Sam Rockwell is fearlessly loathsome, a deplorable. That the film is a mystery story of sorts is part of the point, and beside the point.
I’m maybe not being too clear about this: writing about things I admire makes me inarticulate. But please, because I like you: go see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.