RAPED WHILE DYING.
STILL NO ARRESTS.
HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?
If that's not confronting enough, add a woman's righteous anger to the mix, four Golden Globes, and five Baftas, and you've got Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Probably the Oscar winner for Best Picture too.
Late last year it was the darling of critics on the film festival circuit, and the public too - winning the People's Choice Award in Toronto. It was the resulting negative backlash occurring with whiplash speed that was the real surprise.
For my purposes, the plot matters only to a point; mother loses a teenage daughter to rape and murder and is shifted beyond the typical grid pattern of grief, the local cops look recalcitrant and sluggish in relation to solving the case, mother takes matters into her own hands.
The ending isn't neat and tidy; you're left to ponder whether the mother and the cop are redeemed, or heading straight to the hellfires of evil. Uncertain finales are not suited to American audiences at best – think The Sopranos - and where they lead the rest of us tend to follow.
What interests me more than the movie itself, is the level and form of criticism around it. With virtually every two-bit blogger through to the most pretentious New York critic bagging it, the label now firmly attached to the film is "controversial". Why? They didn't like the ending.
It should've had a different ending. It should've made more of the entrenched southern racism of the cop – being set in the state where police brutality against people of colour is endemic, and where Ferguson happened. It should have made the racist cop work harder towards redemption – even if redemption is not necessarily where the cop was headed. Oh, and in many cases, the mother's quiet, seething and downright dangerous anger is seen as just not portrayed in an entirely believable way. Subtext? A womanly way.
Sure, I concede the debate around it has been far more intellectual and deeply analytical than that. My issue is whether the debate is necessary at all. I mean, when did we go from accepting an artist's vision to trying to entirely rewrite that vision to suit our own world view? The arrogance and pomposity is astounding.
Now, let's take that arrogance and pomposity and add it to day-to-day life. Everywhere it seems, there's a victim waiting in the wings to take offence.
Been on social media lately? From there you can observe the regular spectacle of someone, of basically good intent, choosing their words arguably a fraction less than carefully, and paying for it in blood for hours or days on end. The ensuing frenzy of frothing and foaming is eye-wateringly ghastly. Everybody is jockeying for the high moral ground position, even if that means knocking a few out cold with their swinging elbows on the way up the virtue hill.
The irony is that in the headlong rush to prove yourself more decent/ethical/moral/righteous than everybody else in the universe, you're missing the wood for the trees. That is, this thing called humanness. A place where we're not perfect, where bad things happen, and endings aren't scripted. This is what makes us real.
I don't like that America has a gun-toting culture where kids at school are routinely shot to smithereens, or that Trump is the leader of the free world. I hate that cows and rivers suffer every day at the hands of faceless, money-grubbing corporates, or that most politicians are basically the wrong people in the wrong job.
I loathe the fact that climate change is routinely bearing down on us with such speed or force, or that my partner had to endure breast cancer treatment last year, or that I will likely die a death in a manner not of my own choosing. Have you noticed that life isn't tidy?
Which isn't to say we shouldn't try to make society better. Not at all. But it is to say that constantly wearing your impeccable politics on your wet sleeve, and berating anyone who doesn't need you to know that they take a 97-year-old shopping every Tuesday, or that they diligently donate to the food bank, or that they use their own hessian bags at the supermarket, is pretty ugly.
I'm a great believer in action, not talk. I absolutely believe in righteous anger in women (and men). It can be motivating. Not all of us cry or play the victim, when hurt or confronted. Some of us get mad. Some of us get even. Some of us want revenge. Rightly or wrongly.
There is no perfect world, and there never will be. In fact, some of us are starring in a totally different movie from the one you're in.
And, believe it or not, that's okay.