After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby, the town’s revered chief of police.
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If McDonagh had not let the sin of pride interfere and had, for instance, cut the pious, godlike speech Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) delivers to the racist Dixon in voiceover from beyond the grave, he would not have come off as so manipulative and clueless. A little humility goes a long way.
The reason to do any barking — well, the reason for me — is that “Three Billboards” feels so off about so many things. It’s one of those movies that really do think they’re saying something profound about human nature and injustice. It’s set in the country’s geographical middle, which should trigger a metaphor alert. . . . Individually, not one of these choices qualifies as a disaster. But they’re conflated here in a way that achieves a grating otherworldliness.
What places Three Billboards in a higher emotional register than its two predecessors is the tragic poignancy of Angela’s death and the sincerity of the sorrow Mildred expresses to Willoughby and Anne. The late rapprochement between Mildred and Dixon . . . begins when he tells her where they can find the rapist drifter who has menaced Mildred and beaten up Dixon. It turns into something much more hopeful when they confess to each other that they’re uncertain whether or not they’ll kill him.