Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) Review


Director: Martin McDonagh

Writer: Martin McDonagh

Actors: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell


When I first heard about Three Billboards I instantly felt that this is going to be a film that I am going to enjoy. The film is rooted in reality, it has a simple yet unconventional story, and has a capable writer-director behind the wheels of the project. Everything about this film screams my taste. However, after finishing the film and not liking it, I kept on scratching my head thinking why it did not click with me. All of the elements of a film that I would like are in Three Billboards, yet I did not like it at all. It made me step back and actually think about what overall made me displeased and then look further down into the specifics from the film that lead that to happen. When thinking about all of that, I came up with correlations between this film and last year's Manchester by the Sea. To me both films feel very similar, but one has something that the other doesn't and that's the ability to connect with the characters. Which is basically my biggest crux when it comes to Three Billboards, and here's why. 

Three Billboards is a film about a distraught mother who decides to challenge the local police station for not solving her daughters murder/rape case by putting up three billboards about the situation. The film concept seems interesting. It is not complicated yet it is still interesting enough to grab the viewers attention. However, for some reason, nothing about this film made me connect with any of the characters or events. Personally, I did not feel like any of the characters acted naturally. All of them seemed to have acted so strangely. I can understand for example if its just Mildred who is being strange and unnatural due to the situation she is in. But everyone in this film just felt off to me. The writing felt very forced and none of it felt natural. A good example of why I felt this way was the orange juice scene. I seriously did not understand the point of that scene, it felt so out of place and so silly that it just put me out of the whole film. I remember distinctly thinking "what is going on here?". Because no one acted like human beings in this film! Which is the only thing that this film needed because of the story surrounding it. Not only did they not act like humans, the dialogue also felt very "robotic". The way the characters responded to certain situations felt like a robot trying to say what it thinks humans would say. I know it is far-fetched to make such a statement, but that is truly what I felt while watching this film. Obviously many people feel differently than me, which is fine, but I'm just here to convey what I truly felt while watching.

Another big aspect of the film that turned me off was the unsatisfying nature of the film. I'm not claiming here that if you have an open ending that your film will automatically be unsatisfying. Take for example No Country For Old Men, which has a very open ending to the film and one that may feel unsatisfying. But in that film, it mimics how life works, and how things don't always tie up neatly. With Three Billboards however, nothing felt satisfying. Not the way the characters acted or the way the story progressed. Everything just felt dead to me, and nothing made me care about what is happening on screen. The ending especially just made me go "really? that's the ending to all of this". I mean its so silly, whether or not they decided to kill that man or not does not add anything to the film. It just leaves you with nothing, which is exactly what I felt. With other films of this year like The Florida Project, Phantom Thread, and Lady Bird, I came out of the films with so much to think about. So much to dissect and look back on. With Three Billboards however, although its been around 2 weeks since I saw the film, I rarely think about it. Nothing about the film makes me go back and think more deeply about it. That is what disappointed me most, it just left me feeling nothing and that is not what you want a film to do. You need to think about it for it do be effective. 

I understand that up until now I have been very critical of this film, however I feel like it is warranted. When a film such as this is getting so much praise by critics and winning so many awards, I need to talk heavily on why I didn't like it. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed some elements of this film. The acting for the most part is great, even though I did not enjoy the writing and what the characters were saying. The obvious highlights were Frances Mcdormand and Sam Rockwell, who both did a great job with their respective roles. Other than that, I liked some of the cinematography in the film. But it wasn't as good as say Phantom Thread or The Florida Project. Other than those two things, that's about all I really enjoyed from this film. Which is a shame since this seems like something right up my alley. For some reason it just did not click with me. 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri on paper is a perfect "Omar Film". A film rooted in reality with a simple yet still interesting story with great acting and good cinematography. All of those three elements combine to make my favorite films. However, this film did not connect with me one bit. It felt flat and nothing about it really engaged me and made me think about it later on. The acting was great, and so was the cinematography for the most part, but other than that the film was very unsatisfying. I felt nothing when watching the movie and I still felt nothing when the movie was over. Maybe it says something about me or maybe this film was never meant to connect with me. Nevertheless I guess I can understand the buzz around this film, it has a message that is pretty relevant to what is happening nowadays. However, for me personally, I want something more memorable, and this isn't it.