"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" And Moral Ambiguity
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We Need More Moral Ambiguity

It lasts the entire length of the movie, and, frankly, it's shocking and confusing.


I only just recently had the opportunity to watch one of the best movies of 2017, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." You may or may not have seen or heard of it, but I don't think enough people were aware of the theme and focus of the film.

In "Three Billboards," all of the characters are morally ambiguous from the start. It lasts the entire length of the movie, and, frankly, it's shocking and confusing.

The plot centers around the rape and murder of a young teen girl, Angela Hayes. Almost seven months after the murder, there are still no arrests, and Angela's mom, Mildred Hayes, is fed up with the whole situation, and the police department in particular.

Mildred decides to rent three billboards outside of town that lines up along one of the roads, which happens to be where Angela was murdered.

The first billboard reads, "Raped while dying," the second, "And still no arrests," the third, "How come, Chief Willoughby?"

This, of course, causes some trouble with the police and some people within the town. Throughout the movie, the main interactions are shown between Mildred, the chief of police, and one of the police officers, Dixon.

I've never seen a movie with as much focus as this — and it's clear where the focus is from one of the very first scenes with Mildred, played by Frances McDormand.

After staring at the three, worn billboards for a few minutes, Mildred goes into the marketing office that owns them. During her conversation with the salesman, Red, she asks about what words she's not allowed to legally put on the billboards.

I'm not going to repeat those words here, but in short, this makes her character gruff and raw.

As she moves to the window of the office, the camera shows a close-up of a black beetle struggling on it's back. The audience is given the feeling, from the conversation, her looks, and the tone, that Mildred is going to squish it.

Instead, she gently helps it back on its legs. This small action, although insignificant to the ultimate storyline, reveals the intentions of the writers and director — the theme of moral ambiguity.

Throughout the movie, the audience is shown the worst and best in each character; this even includes the "villain" of the story, Officer Dixon.

Although this is a little controversial, because of how the film makes the audience sympathize with a racist, ignorant cop, I think it was done very well — and more movies should be made with this premise in mind.

While there are a lot of overly-dramatic, violent movies and shows out there, none quite strike a chord as precisely as "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."

This movie feels closer to life in terms of "morally gray areas." Every real person has good and bad mixed in, so there shouldn't be any reason why characters in movies, books, or TV shows are simply "good" or "bad." This film's perspective feels fresh, invigorating, but also very confusing and conflicting.

Usually, it's very easy to decide which characters to love or hate, but "Three Billboards" makes it incredibly hard. By the conclusion of the film, you'll find yourself questioning what you would do in desperate circumstances — and you won't be able to decide which character you hated more.

"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" is available to buy or rent on services such as: YouTube and Google Play, but is also available to watch with an HBO subscription.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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