Jeff Nichols’ LOVING has been making its rounds on the festival circuit and all the praise it’s been receiving is well-deserved. The real-life story of interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving is a beautiful story of commitment that is as relevant today as it was in 1958. Taking a different route from his fantastical and thrilling fare, Nichols effortlessly grounds his latest film with delicate care, subdued emotion, and powerful storytelling.
Residing in the small town of Central Point, Virgina, Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga) fell in love and were married. Sounds like a normal thing to do, but in the ’50s, not so much. It was illegal for an interracial couple to marry in Virginia and because of this, the two were sent to jail and then later forced to leave the state. The two lived in Washington D.C. and raised their family until they brought their case to court. Their civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia, went on to the Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision, the court determined that the prohibition of interracial marriage was unconstitutional ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.
Although the film is essentially about the game-changing case, it is anything but a courtroom drama (thank God). Nichols, who also penned the film, made it less about the mechanics of the judicial system and more about the people involved — as it should be. What could have been a typical movie about race relations wrought with slurs and the unnecessary racist evil that comes along with them, was instead a movie that focused on the relationship, the strength of love, and the extraordinary courage of two people that changed history.
Having starred in Nichols’ sleeper hit Midnight Special, Edgerton has shown he works well with the incredible filmmaker. As Richard, he is aloof, yet concerned. He stays stone-faced, yet his eyes, and overall demeanor, still maintain an undying love and I’d-die-for-you affection for Mildred. But it is Negga who is the endearing beating heart and soul of this quietly tense film with her deeply expressive doe eyes and ability to emit an endless amount of hope in a film that is flooded with hopelessness. Edgerton and Negga are a treasured and inspiring on-screen couple and the pair — as well as Nichols — are deservedly in line to earn their fair share of nods come award season.
There’s a certain degree of difficulty when telling a story of this nature — especially if you’re a white director. It needs to be handled with authenticity and careful attention. More than that, it’s a story that needs to tell itself rather than having a director force it along with their own interests in mind. Nichols, along with his stellar cast, exceeded expectations by crafting an emotionally triumphant and beautiful story that speaks volumes in today’s social climate.
Running time: 123 minutes
Dino-Ray Ramos watches too much TV, enjoys reality singing competitions and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer