What happens when the legal system is unable to bring justice to a horrible crime? Would you stay home and wait or would you go out and do something?
What would you do if something terrible happened to someone you love but justice never came? This is a story that’s been repeated millions of times around the world, and yet the idea of going through something like that is so unimaginable to me, that I can’t help but wonder what I would do in that situation. Would I go after the person responsible and get justice with my own hands, or would I trust the authorities to do their job? What would you do? Just think about it for a moment. It's really difficult, right? Now, most people would probably go for the second option, since that's what we’re taught to do: trust the system. But what happens when there's no way to find the person responsible? This is precisely the premise that the movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri explores.
Mildred Hayes has been waiting for seven months for the authorities to catch the person who raped and murdered her daughter, but they don't have anything, not even a clue of who did it. Desperate and angry, she decides to do something herself, exposing the police department, especially the chief of the police, by renting three abandoned billboards at the entrance of Ebbing, a small town in Missouri. They read: "Raped while dying," "And still no arrests," and "How come, Chief Willoughby?" in a bright red background with black letters. Not only does this infuriate chief Willoughby and the entire department, but it also angers the entire population of Ebbing, who believe that what she's doing is completely unreasonable.
As a result, Mildred becomes the target of many threats and acts of vandalism from anonymous neighbors who feel bad for the chief because they don't think he's to blame and he's also battling pancreatic cancer. Even the local priest shows his disapproval and tries to convince her to get rid of the billboards, but she’s determined to push the police to actually do something regarding her daughter’s case. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to go through something like this. I think I'd want to do everything in my power to get some answers in order to move on. But what’s the right thing to do?
A mix between drama and black comedy, the film shows us the determination of a woman who won’t let anyone make her feel bad for doing what she believes is the only way to get the answers she needs. What’s great about the movie is that it manages to makes you laugh despite dealing with an issue that, sadly, is a very common reality in the world these days.
Although the story is pretty straightforward, instead of establishing the problem in the beginning and solving at the end, it just turns into a chain of complication after complication that makes us wonder if there’s ever a way to escape from this type of horrible crimes. The answer is probably no. Even when there's justice, there’s no going back, there’s no comfort, and more importantly, no way to actually get the justice the victims deserve.
Yes, this is a horrible issue that we should all take seriously, so why explore it through comedy? I’ve always thought that comedy is usually more sincere and approachable than most dramas that kind of detach themselves to tell the story. So, of course, this is no laughing matter, but the fact that it makes us analyze why we are laughing is actually what makes it so relatable and fitting to talk about this problem that affects so many people. That morbid ambiance it creates exposes exactly why this is such a common reality. So, I'll ask you one more time: what would you have done in her place?
Here's the trailer, if you want to take a look:
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