Writer-director Martin McDonagh's dark crime comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, topped the British Academy of Film and Television Awards Sunday in London, winning five trophies including Best Film. Starring Frances McDormand as a grieving mother who rents out three billboards to call out a local law enforcement chief (Woody Harrelson) for not solving her daughter's brutal murder, Three Billboards has been neck and neck with The Shape of Water as the most honored film this awards season.
Both films have dominated the guild awards, which is significant because some of the membership of those industry organizations also vote on the Academy Awards. The Shape of Water, a romantic fantasy co-written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, won Best Picture at the Producer's Guild Awards and Best Director for del Toro at the Directors Guild Awards, while Three Billboards received Best Actress (for McDormand), Best Supporting Actor (for Sam Rockwell) and Best Motion Picture Ensemble statuettes at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The SAG Award for Best Ensemble is particularly important for a film, since it's the equivalent of a Best Picture honor from the guild.
Now, with two weeks to go before the 90th annual Academy Awards, Three Billboards has captured perhaps its biggest honor yet by winning Best Film at the BAFTAs. McDormand and Rockwell also won for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor, respectively, while McDonagh was tapped the Best Original Screenplay. Three Billboards was also named Outstanding British Film, which on the outset appears to be an odd choice for a film with an American setting. However, Three Billboards was produced by U.K.-based Film4, while McDonagh, the creative force behind the picture, was born in London. While McDonagh was up for Best Director at the BAFTAs, del Toro snagged the award for The Shape of Water.
While Three Billboards' Best Film win makes it a serious contender with The Shape of Water for the Best Picture Oscar, del Toro has further entrenched himself as the helmer to beat for Best Director at the Academy Awards. Since McDonagh missed out on a Best Director Oscar nomination and del Toro beat him out at the DGA Awards and BAFTAs, The Shape of Water helmer seems to be a shoo-in come Oscar night March 4. Other big winners at the BAFTAs Sunday include Gary Oldman, who was named Best Actor for Darkest Hour, and Allison Janney took the trophy for Best Supporting Actress for I, Tonya. Legendary filmmaker James Ivory won for Best Adapted Screenplay for Call Me by Your Name, while Coco was named Best Animated Feature.
It will be interesting to see whether the rise in visibility of Three Billboards, whether in terms of industry honors or as a means of social protest, will affect the film's awards outcome in two weeks. On Friday, a group of protesters inspired by the film's theme parked three mobile billboards outside U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's office in Florida in response to the tragic school shootings in the state earlier this week.
On Sunday, the #TimesUp movement to draw attention to sexual harassment and abuse in the entertainment industry was the focus at the BAFTAs, with many attendees wearing black. According to Variety, McDormand, known for marching to her own beat, honored the movement, saying, “As Martin (McDonagh) said, I have a little trouble with compliance, but I want you to know I stand in alliance with my sisters in black.”