Joey Nolfi
January 21, 2018 at 10:16 PM EST

The Screen Actors Guild has hoisted up Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as the best-acted film of the year.

Emerging with the industry union’s highest competitive honor at Sunday night’s ceremony, Martin McDonagh’s social satire continued its solid run through the Oscar precursor circuit as it claimed the SAG ensemble prize over the likes of Mudbound, Get Out, Lady Bird, and The Big Sick.

Frances McDormand, also the night’s best actress winner, accepted the award on behalf of the “kids of Ebbing, Missouri,” thanking the film’s “papas” (including writer-director McDonagh), “mamas” (costar Sandy Martin and casting director Sarah Finn), and “godparents” Fox Searchlight and Film4, before closing out with a triumphant whistle.

McDonagh’s third directorial effort, Three Billboards staked a claim on early awards season buzz out of its fall festival debut, running away with strong critical reviews in Venice en route to bagging the Toronto International Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award — a key precursor stepping stone that often leads to a best picture nomination. It later carried that momentum through to the Golden Globes, where it was named best drama of 2017. The film follows a grieving mother, Mildred (McDormand), who seeks revenge on her local police force by erecting the titular signage covered with criticizing sentiments after the department fails to capture her daughter’s murderer.

McDormand, Sam Rocwell, and Woody Harrelson also received individual nominations from SAG for their work in the film, appearing in the best lead actress and best supporting actor categories, respectively. In addition to the aforementioned stars, fellow cast members Abbie Cornish, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Lucas Hedges, Željko Ivanek, Caleb Landry Jones, Frances McDormand, Clarke Peters, and Samara Weaving were honored with SAG trophies as part of Three Billboards’ ensemble win.

“Martin and I [had] conversations about vulnerability,” McDormand previously told EW of preparing to play the part. “I believed there were places where Mildred simply can’t access her emotions. So why be afraid of that? Everybody is f—ing crying in movies all the time, even the men! For me, that’s not Greek tragedy, it’s a therapy session. It’s about neuroses and not pain and rage. There’s something healing about tears. If Mildred’s emotions are so accessible, if she can so easily go to tears, then why is she so filled with rage? Because if you can cry out the pain, you don’t need to burn down the police station. So I was interested in her being locked out of her own humanity.”

A reliable sampling of Hollywood’s pre-Oscar preference, SAG is widely considered to be one of the most influential arms on the precursor circuit, as its nominating committee announces its roster of honorees ahead of most other industry groups that share crossover membership with the Academy.

With membership totaling over 100,000, SAG also represents broader taste than the Directors Guild of America or the Producers Guild of America, and its early voting deadlines often leave late-breaking contenders out in the cold (a fate Golden Globe-nominated films like The Post and All the Money in the World suffered this year).

Still, SAG’s ensemble award corresponds with Academy’s best picture roster more often than not, with 11 of the guild’s victors also taking Oscar’s highest honor the same year. 10 other victors  (including last year’s Hidden Figures) received best picture nominations, but did not win. When it comes to individual performances, however, since the 1994 ceremony, 17 lead actresses — including last year’s La La Land star Emma Stone — have won both the SAG Award and the corresponding Oscar, while that number jumps to 19 for leading men that have bagged a SAG Award before going on to win the Oscar.

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