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  • Loving | Review

    By | November 4, 2016


    Director: Jeff Nichols

    Writer: Jeff Nichols

    Starring: Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton, Will Dalton, Terri Abney, Alano Miller, Chris Greene, Sharon Blackwood, Christopher Mann, Marton Csokas, David Jensen, Nick Kroll, Bill Camp, Jon Bass, Michael Shannon

    Hot on the heels of his Midnight Special, director Jeff Nichols, who up to this point has placed his considerable directorial skills in service of fictional tales, has decided to dip his toes into docudrama with his fifth film, Loving. The film takes a look at the marriage of a Virginia interracial couple, Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred Loving (Ruth Negga), who faced legal persecution as a result, ultimately resulting in a monumental 1967 Supreme Court decision that struck down existing laws against interracial marriage.

    Of course, as is often the case, what inspired the Lovings in their battle for equality wasn’t a desire to change the world or grab a place in history, but instead simply their love for one another and a desire to have the same opportunities to be together and raise a family as all of their fellow Virginians. And in focusing on the Lovings themselves and on the day to day and moment to moment realities of their striving for a life together, Nichols admirably makes clear that this is a living, breathing story of love between two people and not a story of a legal battle or a cultural watershed. This is not an overtly political film, nor should it be, as the Lovings weren’t politically motivated people. They were simply two people who fell in love.

    The film opens with the couple on their rural porch, she revealing to he the big news that she’s pregnant…welcome news. Knowing well where they were, the couple headed to Washington, D.C. to tie the knot. But as time goes on and word gets out, they’re soon visited by the local sheriff and arrested. After a local lawyer secures their release, they relocate to D.C. but as time goes on, Mildred misses her family terrible and they return to Virginia. But soon someone tips off law enforcement to their presence and thus begins the legal battle.

    Edgerton is powerful in his portrayal of Richard Loving, a plain and hard-working rural white man who has grown to know and love the black Virginian families he has lived and worked beside, but it is Negga who threatens to steal the show with her subtly powerful turn as Mildred. Her subtlety, so often communicating so much through her subdued movements and stunningly expressive eyes, is shockingly expressive. Together, the two of them are dynamite but with a slow fuse and a soft explosion, slowly felt but with a long lingering repercussion.

    There is an argument to be made that the film is too apolitical, that it is too passive in its condemnation of structural racism, that it is not pointedly dramatic enough. But I would argue that its tone and approach is just right and appropriate in telling the tale of two honorable and decent people who through their love and their struggling rose above the limitations of their circumstances and in the process changed the course of American history.

    Rating: 8/10

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