She is simply wonderful.
Like Fargo, Billboards is a dark and at times violent black comedy that walks the fine line from potentially being rather a bleak movie to being a surprising uplifting and hopeful one. I say surprising because it is essentially the study how the rape and murder of a teenage girl affects a small family and most importantly her feisty battling mother who cannot cope with the fact that her daughter's killers have escaped detection by the local small town police department.
McDormand plays Mildred, the boiler suited, bandana wearing mother who takes it on herself to rent three local billboards in order to highlight what she thinks is the lack of action of the local Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson).
This drastic action has a knock on effect within the Small Town of Ebbing, as with tensions running high because of the open secret that the much loved Willoughby is in fact dying, Mildred has to fight the unstable and stupid deputy Dixon ( the excellent Sam Rockwell) an un supportive ex husband and the sympathetic yet powerless Willoughby in her crusade to find the truth.
The film plays fast and loose with reality at times, in a very similar way that old fashioned Westerns do to modern eyes and I think this is a conscious decision by Brit director/ writer Martin McDonough who obviously has something to say about blue collar America where institutionalised racism, homophobia and small thinking can often rule the day.
Wisely McDonough chooses the main thrust of the story to be that of grief and redemption rather than focus on a social commentary and this is where McDormand comes into her own .
Reminding me of that wartime poster of the all-American factory worker , she takes on all comers with a potty mouth and the fierceness of a cornered lioness . Rarely smiling but possessing a wry humour McDormand's character wavers between being sympathetic one minute and truly monstrous the next and it is this ambiguity that makes the film so interesting.