Film of the Decade – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

From Toy Story 2’s release in 2010 to Scorsese’s recent 3.5-hour epic, this past decade has been a hearty cinematic meal. The 2010s have seen the unprecedented rise of reboots, remakes, sci-fi, and superhero films. The decade ended with the highest-grossing film ever made: Avengers: Endgame. It’s hard to narrow my decision of best film to one. For any other article on highest rated movies, Inglourious Basterds would have taken the trophy with no competition, but much to my disappointment it was released in 2009.The best film needs to combine stellar acting with timeless themes that have aged well. For me, only one fulfils this checklist: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Francis McDormand’s portrayal of grieving mother Mildred in this darkly comedic drama is some of the best acting I’ve ever seen. When it comes to describing grief, we often find ourselves tongue-tied. Not McDormand. The focus and devotion she has for Mildred’s anguish over the murder and rape of her daughter makes this a career-defining role. She is the perfect amalgamation of fierce passion and ethereal grace; witnessing her performance is a transformative experience. Her ability to instantly switch off her rowdy repartee and adopt the role of a loving motherly figure articulates her unparalleled artistic talent. 

Oftentimes supporting characters are overshadowed when playing alongside powerful and evocative lead performances. Three Billboards avoids this pitfall. The unexpected trio of McDormand, Woody Harrelson (Chief Willoughby), and Sam Rockwell (Dixon) perfectly complement one another. Harrelson mixes determination and vulnerability in his amusing portrayal of family man and police chief Willoughby. Rockwell’s volatile performance as a racist policeman is even more compelling. Despite his hateful character, he plays a key part in forging the fragile and intense dynamic between the three characters. 

We couldn’t forget the stars of the show – the billboards. Serving as a catalyst for the events and crises connected to Mildred’s tragedy, they remind us that the criminal justice system fails most rape victims, with very few cases ending in a conviction. Mildred plasters the message “raped while dying. And still no arrests. How come, Chief Willoughby?” Last year this inspired protests by the Justice 4 Grenfell movement, Protesters carried the message “71 dead. And still no arrests? How come?” It is a political statement that has been adopted globally, specifically in the aftermath of the school shootings in Florida.

This film is timeless and a deserving winner, designed to make you feel before you think. The unmistakable wisdom of the film resonates throughout: “anger only begets more anger”— a line from Mildred’s ex-husband’s 19-year-old girlfriend. She read it on a bookmark. 

Honourable Mentions: Manchester by the Sea, Spotlight, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 12 Years a Slave, Parasite, The Wolf of Wall Street, The King’s Speech, Moonlight, The Master and Boyhood.

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