Jeff Nichols’ Loving: A Marriage Under Scrutiny

In 1958, the Lovings were married in Colombia but live where they grew up, Central Point in Virginia. This was where they wanted to set up shop, a place that imprisoned and subsequently exiled them for twenty-five years. They relocated with their children to Washington D.C and this is their tale. This biography drama is a tale of love, racism, strife and a changing world but it’s also a true story that would go on to alter the US Constitution in the Supreme Court.

In a movie as quiet and subtle as Loving, the first thing audiences will notice are the excellent performances of Ruth Negga (Preacher) and Joel Edgerton (Black Mass), the duo who play Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple who in 1958 came to blows with Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws. Negga is up for an Oscar and rightly so. Her performance is silent yet wonderful while Edgerton is silent in the original meaning of the word since he doesn’t say much. It’s his actions and facial expressions that deliver his performance, which is a gem as well.

Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred Loving (Ruth Negga) with their family
(Loving, Universal Pictures)

When the local cops are made aware of the marriage, Richard and Mildred are pulled from their bed and thrown in jail. While Richard is bailed out in quick succession, heavily pregnant Mildred must wait at the mercy of the state’s white supremacy. The judge decides several days is enough. They’re given a suspended sentence on the basis that they leave the Virginia for twenty-five years. They agree but living so far from home isn’t what Mildred wanted for her three children. She writes to DA Robert ‘Bobby’ Kennedy asking for his help and subsequently the Loving Case is thrown into the public eye, soon becoming a media story and a landmark case in the Supreme Court.

With much praise for the acting and such, I believe the director deserves equal measure of praise as well. Jeff Nichols’ direction is structurally sound and wonderful to watch. His script is truly something special as well. The Loving’s state of affairs begin as a minor incident in a state that is know for its liberality in comparison to other southern states. But we’re still in The South and it’s the 1950s, so rampant racism is always on the agenda. We go from a small incident into something that puts Virginia into the spotlight and America’s race problem with it. His approach to the story is subtle and quiet, much akin to the Lovings who “won’t bother anyone” if they can be left to live in peace.

Mildred Loving (Ruth Negga) called Robert Kennedy’s office
(Loving, Universal Pictures)

In my opinion, there is only one weak point to this film and that’s the court case. I felt it was skimmed over incredibly quickly and I’d like to have seen a fully-fledged To Kill A Mockingbird-esque scene with one of the lawyers giving an excellent speech about race and society but also America’s abundant relaxed attitude to intolerance, fear and bigotry. This would have been a fitting ending to a masterclass film.

Ruth Negga gives Jim Crow the finger

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