Anger begets greater anger

Anger begets greater anger

 

There’s an old saying that if you want to make sure something gets done, do it yourself. Unfortunately, there’s a selfish undertone that comes with that saying. It assumes that others aren’t interested in doing what needs to be done. It assumes that people around us aren’t trying to put themselves in our shoes. It assumes that things would be better if other just bloody-well tried harder. However, that brings about the old saying about what happens when you assume:

You make and ass out of u.

In actuality, it’s seldom as simple as saying “I’m just going to take care of it myself”. The effort is sometimes appreciated and even commended – sometimes. More often, the effort is seen as undermining something else, even insulting greater efforts. When that happens, the efforts of good people begin to wane, and the cynicism of bad people brings out our worst nature.

One year ago, Angela Hayes was raped and murdered outside of Ebbing, Missouri.

Twelve long months later, her mother Mildred (Frances McDormand) has grown frustrated that her daughters assailant(s) are still at-large. She decides to force the issue by renting out three billboards on the edge of town and putting up messages to the local authorities. When read in-sequence, the three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri read:

RAPED WHILE DYING.

AND STILL NO ARRESTS.

HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?

 Said chief of police (Woody Harrelson) is not impressed. His best efforts have turned up no leads, and as a result, no arrests. He feels as though the billboards are a slap in the face, and exacerbating and already tense situation. His feelings are shared by his underling, the racist officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell)…along with several other townsfolk that don’t care for Mildred’s brazen approach.

However, the end result is that Mildred’s billboards do set events in-motion that brings the case back to people’s mind. One such person is her son, Robbie (Lucas Hedges). Robbie is already fighting some dark feelings, and the attention these billboards call to him and his depression isn’t helping. Likewise, on the family front, there’s Charlie (John Hawkes) – Mildred’s abusive ex, and Angela’s father. He fears reprisals for Mildred’s declaration, and that she has taken a bad situation and made it worse.

However, at a time where so much is left uncertain, Chief Willoughby goes and makes a few certainties by following Mildreds lead, and taking matters into his own hands. He takes control of his own fate, and in so doing raises the attention paid to the case of Angela Hayes.

This is the point where Mildred and Jason find themselves most at-odds, and this is the point where the three billboards outside Ebbings, Missouri become a symbol of something else entirely.

 

harrelson and mcdormand

 

It’s difficult to nail down what can bring us peace during moments of true crisis. High amounts of attention can distract, while isolation can ease anxiety. What THREE BILLBOARDS would have us believe is that in moments of true crisis, we just want someone to identify with our pain. We want someone to see what we are doing, or act on what should be done. We want to speak, but more importantly we want to be heard.

Chief Willoughby wants his efforts to be recognized; Mildred Hayes wants more effort. The two are forever linked, but also deeply at odds. His best efforts are not good enough, but without his best efforts, she’ll never find what she is looking for. Who’s right?

Why should her search for peace supersede his? Why should his supersede hers? Is there any way they can both find peace with themselves before this heinous crime is solved?

Usually, what brings us the most amount of peace is even a moment away from that which we most regret.

THREE BILLBOARDS drips with regret. So many of the characters look weary, so exhausted have they become by carrying their failings around every day. What they have said, or what they didn’t say. In things they have done, and in things they have failed to do. Some of these people could have left this little community and gone on to better things. Others could have been a larger part of it. Expressing that regret requires subtleties, the sort that come from an actor’s eyes and not their lips.

Other times, pain comes from wishing we could take something back. THREE BILLBOARDS has characters saying some heinous things to one-another, and causing each-other real physical harm. You can see how much characters wish they could erase these moments with hindsight, and yet, all they can hope for is to hopefully earn forgiveness from their sins. Perhaps then they will get some relief from their regrets. It’s a high hope, since these regrets are the worst ones of all – these regrets are a result of impulse.

The fact of the matter is that so much of what we do in life is fuelled by impulse. When we get hit, we want to hit back. When we’re insulted, we must retort. Every bluff must be called. Every call must be raised.

Sometimes this helps matters, but too often it doesn’t.

We just have no idea what’s happening in another person’s heart or their head. Their lives are filled with complexities and challenges that we cannot completely appreciate. Impulse flies in the face of this. It casts aside empathy and only satisfies our most immediate – and often ill-considered – desires.

Nothing in life is black and white. Good people let us down; bad people help us out. We make jokes in the midst of personal tragedy, and weep on the greatest days of our lives. These complexities defy assumption, fuel conflict, and even give us hope.

These are the blurry watercolours this portrait is painted with – the sort that bleed into one another to create something messy, beautiful, and true.

 

Matineescore: ★ ★ ★ ★ out of ★ ★ ★ ★
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