| Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married.
Richard Loving loved his wife Mildred and she loved him but never once in the movie do they say “I love you,” in words. The way they look at each other, touch each other, lean on each other, interact with each other shows those three words more than saying it would. The latest film from Jeff Nichols (second of 2016) is beautifully-told, graceful and affecting as the filmmaker focused on the couple themselves instead of making a political statement. Yes of course the film has a major political and social implication, as the Supreme Court decision on Loving v. Virginia put an end to all miscegenation laws in 1967. But at the end of the day, the story is about two human beings who loved each other and wanted to raise a family together.
Nichols resisted the temptation to write a courtroom drama or to try and gratuitously dramatize the story through focus on brutality. Instead, Nichols – with his cast and crew – primarily tell the Lovings’ story with quiet images of Richard and Mildred at home or at work. The tension in the movie runs thick without trying to capture a broad tonal “image” of how a community or nation was affected by the events in the narrative; rather, simply seeing how “mundane” acts of racism generated the very atmosphere and environment that the Lovings lived in was incredibly effective on its own.
“Tell the judge I love my wife.”
Although Edgerton’s Richard gets a little more screen time, Negga’s Mildred is easily the emotional center of the film. Mildred endures greater persecutions from legal authorities, shows the trust and courage to pursue a legal case against her oppressors, and bears the emotional burdens of literally everyone in her family. Negga’s performance does not require flashy monologues – she uses facial expression and nonverbals to convey everything that the audience needs to feel with Mildred in both her fear and her strength. Meanwhile, Edgerton also delivers a fine performance as the quiet, but worry-laden Richard. Edgerton literally, physically sinks downward as the emotional weight of the movie increases. His interpretation of Richard is of a bent man who is bowed low as he looks for relief for his family. Their accents at first are distracting and can be hard to understand but as the movie continues the audience becomes more immersed in the world and it does feels natural.
However, I feel like ‘Loving’ could have been more effective than it was. It also felt like Nichols was kind of on stand-by. I’m not sure if it was the mix of the period drama subject matter with someone like him as a director that made it feel a lot quieter than most films of this type, but I wanted to feel more. Don’t get me wrong, the performances are near perfect and really strong. But I do kind of wish there was a little more time spent on the periphery, both on the supporting characters and on the actual trial and decision.
Overall pretty good film that’s supported by love yet it’s main course is the arrival of justice proving that love and marriage should be possible for a man and woman of any race.
‘Loving’ gets a 7.5/10.
Shot on 35's rating sheet: 9.5 – 10.0: Excellent! 8.5 – 9.5: Fantastic, but with minor flaws 7.5 – 8.5: Great, but with issues 6.5 – 7.5: Okay, but with major issues 5.5 – 6.5: Had potential, but falls flat hard. 4.5 – 5.5: Disaster!