I wrote two days ago about how the trailer for this film was so good that it made me want to see it. So I did yesterday. It is definitely a film worth watching though a little different from what I was expecting. The trailer seemed to indicate that it was a comedy, and though there are many very funny moments in it, it is at heart a serious film dealing with important issues.
The main plot deals with Mildred Hayes (played by Frances McDormand) who is frustrated by the fact that the man who raped and killed her daughter is still on the loose after seven months. In an effort to prod the police to take action, she pays for three billboards that chastise the local police and its chief William Willoughby by name. The film deals with the consequences that ensue from that action.
The film makes sharp comments about various issues (such police brutality, racism, homophobia, and pedophilia in the Catholic church) but the characters themselves are complex, not caricatures, neither wholly good nor bad. Hayes is a crusader for justice but is not a particularly nice person. Willoughby is the chief of a police force that is riddled with officers who are racist, homophobic, care little for civil rights, and violate them with impunity, but he himself is portrayed sympathetically.
The film has some plot twists that took me by surprise but they were plausible, not the kind that are thrown in by filmmakers because they feel the need to wake up the audience. The film also does not try to tie up all the loose ends in a neat bow but the ending is satisfying nonetheless.
The film benefits greatly from the fine performances of its main characters. McDormand has the most expressive face of any actor that I can recall and Harrelson is his usual understated self. Other members of the cast that put in good performances are Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage, and John Hawke.
One thing that bothered me was the role played by Dinklage. He is a fine actor who happens to be a dwarf. I would like to see him in a role where his physical stature was not a focal point. This would have been a good film for that because he plays a long-term resident of a small town who would be well known to the people there, and his stature would have simply faded into the background and people would deal with him as they would anyone else. But much of the dialogue in his scenes deals with his height, and that is a pity. I know that he has a major role in the hit series Game of Thrones. I have not seen it and hope that he is portrayed there just like any other character.
Here is the trailer again.