Is it just me that thinks, if a film has an annoyingly long title, it’s probably good? It implies confidence that you’ll remember the film regardless. That’s why The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro was so good… right? Explicit warning for the trailer.

In Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri‘s case, that confidence is warranted. The film focuses on Frances McDormand, who rents the eponymous three billboards to encourage police action around her daughter’s murder.

Nothing about this film is simple. The characters comprise various shades of grey and nothing unfolds as you expect. All the plot threads conflict naturally to tell a constantly evolving and engaging story. The tone fluctuates like clockwork between hysterical black comedy and affecting tragedy in a beautifully executed cycle. Director Martin McDonagh keeps the cinematography varied and employs multiple camerawork techniques to effectively convey different messages. For instance- when a character gets drunk and flies into a rage, the shot shakes, the focus shifts and there are minimal cuts. A character is emotionally isolated- the shot pulls back and lets the space breathe.

Three Billboard’s┬ácast has received the most recognition though, deservedly so. McDormand is great, her perpetual, cantankerous melancholy is intermittently hilarious and heartbreaking. Woody Harrelson is warmer than he’s been in a while and provides the film’s soul. It’s Sam Rockwell, though, who displays incredible range and delivers the character’s arc best. Sometimes he’s hateful, sometimes funny, sometimes frustrating, sometimes scary, sometimes all at once. Like everything in Three Billboards, the performances are always changing in a way that feels interesting but never unnatural.

The movie is clearly going for the whole ‘make ’em laugh then make ’em cry’ vibe. While it certainly made me laugh, it never got anywhere close to breaching my own emotional walls. It definitely does comedy better than it does tragedy. That said, there were audible gasps and dismayed whispering from my fellow cinema-goers at certain dramatic beats so perhaps that’s just me. Those walls are built rather high.