The older I get, the more I’m learning how much I love “origin stories.” How did Captain America come to be? How did the new friend I just made come to be so delightful and gregarious, and awesome? Why does my next door neighbor always draw the shades and act so reclusive? Whether it’s a Marvel superhero, or real life people who God seems to have put in my life at this moment, I’m finding that it’s fascinating to learn how we got to now. How did we get to “this present,” in this story? …and even if “now” is “scary,” it’s also fascinating, and open-ended, and (call me ever the romantic) hopeful.

As a result, I delight in movies and stories that end with a beginning filled with possibilities. This goes all the way back to The Shawshank Redemption for me. That film ends at the moment in which our two favorite characters embrace in the celebration of the fact that this moment BEGINS the story of their friendship outside of incarceration. What is that going to be like? I’m envisioning a lot of tipsy conversations over a chessboard (they always previously had to play chess sober!) and maybe Red meets a girl, and Andy helps him figure out what to say. The best part? There is no sequel. The sequel resides only in our imaginations.

This has to be by why 2017’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri struck such a chord. The film is essentially about three (literal) billboards and three correspondingly very angry people. I think it can be argued that each of the billboards represents one of those people. That’s not necessarily the intention of writer/director Martin McDonagh, but it works for me. Make no mistake, though. Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell are super angry — and each for different (but very legitimate) reasons.

This is a film that is better not to spoil (much). It is best experienced if we just watch it knowing that these three people have straight up John 16:33 trouble in this world (and the majority of it not of their own making). They are justifiably ticked off, and none of them handles it well, at all. However, when one of them gives life-affirming words of encouragement to the other two, things shift, and like in the best of stories, the shifts are more subtle than transformational.

Three Billboards is the prologue to Thelma and Louise (if the latter were a better movie. Yep, I said it. I know, sorry!). In our denouement, we have two people getting in a car with the single-minded purpose of “settling a score.” This story is more complex, though. It ends with a shared motivation for revenge softened by love from unlikely places. It ends with two wounded souls driving together into the sweet spot of what they thought would make them feel better, but now they are less sure. THAT is interesting.