If there is one word that can describe Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, it’s anger. Everyone in this movie is angry. The mother whose daughter was “raped while dying” is angry. Her son is angry. Her ex-husband is angry. The police officer whose boss is dying of cancer is angry. His mother is angry. The dentist is angry. The priest is angry. The dwarf who asks the grieving mother on a date is angry. The coworker of the mother is angry. The man who helps put up the billboards is angry. The town is angry.
The daughter, in the one scene we have with her, is angry, very angry.
Some of this anger is related to the billboards, most of it is not. Some of this anger is about specific things, specific events, specific people–and some of it is more general, an anger about life and life’s wrongdoings, an anger that has been with these people since they were born, since the time they were wailing babies, that has followed them closely throughout their days and will inhabit their bodies until the day they die. Some of the anger is generational, decades old, some of it is fresh, a wound yet healed. Some of the anger is violent, is violence, and some of it is hate and hatred.
Almost all of the anger, by the end of the film, is understandable, even when it is wrong or contradictory. People are hurt, people suffer, and sometimes the resulting anger is misplaced, but never does it move beyond the realm of the real, never does it become too much to believe. Anger, in this movie, is the grand equalizer. It is what happens when people are hurt. It is not only understood and understandable, it is the very means of understanding.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is playing at the Michigan Theater. Student tickets are $8.