LOVING (USA | UK/TBC/123mins)
Directed by Jeff Nichols. Starring Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Nick Kroll, Michael Shannon, Martin Csokas
THE PLOT: When Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga) marry in secret before returning to their home in Virginia. In 1950s American however, marriage between a white man and a black woman is not accepted by local authorities, and it is not long before the newly wed Lovings are arrested and ordered to leave the State, not to return for 25 years. The Lovings accept their fate until one of their children in hurt while playing on the street; the ensuing court battle to allow the couple and their children to return home changed US law forever.
THE VERDICT: In the wake of ‘Midnight Special’ being released in cinemas recently, ‘Loving’ is a distinct change of pace and storytelling for Jeff Nichols. None of the eerie strangeness that has become the director’s trademark is present in this film, but this examination of a small story feels like a Nichols film, as well as the strong themes of family and home.
Joel Edgerton leads the cast as Richard Loving a man “born in the wrong place”, as he is reminded by the police officer who arrests him. Edgerton makes Richard a quiet man who cannot truly understand why the state of Virginia would have a problem with the fact that he fell in love with a black woman. Edgerton is quiet and strong in the film, and he works incredibly well with Ruth Negga. Negga makes Mildred more tenacious than her husband; someone who has struggled with discrimination all her life and has had no choice but to take it. Negga and Edgerton compliment one another well in their performances, and Loving cements Negga’s place as an Irish actress on the rise. The rest of the cast includes Martin Csokas, Alaono Miller, Nick Kroll in a rare dramatic role, and a beautifully understated cameo from Michael Shannon as a Time photographer, through whose eyes the bond between the Lovings becomes abundantly clear.
Jeff Nichols’ screenplay quietly deals with the issue of marriage equality, and is a story that can easily be applied to the same sex marriage debate, which continues to rage around the world. The story is told through the characters, and not the showy court battles, meaning Nichols makes Loving an intimate and personal story, and one that the audience can elate to.
As director, Jeff Nichols makes all the performances strong but quiet; there are no legal battles on screen and each stage of the process is dealt with with a quiet dignity from all of the characters. The pacing is languid, allowing the prospect of this battle ending up in the Supreme Court to slowly rear its head, and the injustices to be felt on the small scale; this is a story that takes place in homes around the country; not with a million man march, and protests in the streets, but it is here that the film’s strength lies, in making the people the heart of the tale. Nichols’ trademark otherworldliness is missed at times throughout the film, as this Is a change for the director, but once again, this is an examination of a small corner of Americana that is hugely affecting.
In all, Loving is a story about love in all its small cosiness, and great ability to influence change. The performances are strong, quiet and dignified, treating this true story with care, while giving it the attention that it truly deserves.
RATING: 4.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Loving - Review
Review by Brogen Hayes
4.5The power of love
  • filmbuff2011

    Jeff Nichols continues to be a director who surprises and doesn’t confine himself to one genre or any one type of film (unlike, say, Woody Allen). For his fifth film, Loving, he’s set aside the apocalyptic visions of Take Shelter or the 80s-style fantastical elements of Midnight Special for a small true story that had huge implications.

    Virginia, 1958. Mildred (Ruth Negga) tells Richard (Joel Edgerton) that she’s pregnant. He does right by her though, so they go to Washington D.C. to get married. The reason? Virginia has strict anti-miscegenation laws preventing inter-racial marriages. When stern local Sheriff Brooks (Marton Csokas) gets wind of this, Richard and Mildred are taken to court and faced with a difficult future: either go to jail or leave the State of Virginia for 25 years and not return together. They plead guilty and leave for Washington D.C. As the years pass, Mildred finds life harder there though – she’s a country girl and wants to go home. Going home will mean taking on Virginia and its legal might. American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Bernie (Nick Kroll) takes an interest in their case after Mildred writes a letter to Attorney General Robert Kennedy. If they can fight their case all the way to the Federal Supreme Court, they may just be able to strike down this unfair law…

    Writer/director Nichols has fashioned a low-key, fact-based drama that is less about legalities, court battles or even institutionalised racism. The film is really just about one thing: a married couple’s genuine and committed love for each other. The fact that they’re from different races is of no concern to them and it’s not hurting anyone else either way. So, that’s why they find themselves in a difficult situation in these less enlightened times. What’s really striking about the film is the way that Nichols keeps coming back to the Lovings, focusing on their simple and unconditional love for each other. It’s the most authentic depiction of a love story in years.

    Asked by Bernie what he wants to say to the Supreme Court of the United States, Richard simply replies ‘tell the Judge I love my wife’. He’s a man of few words, but of great deeds – whatever the risks he takes to hold on to Mildred. Edgerton internalises most of his performance here, but brilliantly captures the anguish of his situation and his quiet defiance of the anti-miscegenation law (miscegenation is such an ugly word too). Perhaps he would agree with Gandhi that when a law is unjust, it is only right to disobey. Negga is the real revelation here though. Steadily working away on film, TV and the stage since the early part of the last decade (e.g. horror gem Isolation), the Irish actress has finally gained the recognition she so richly deserves. She gives a performance that is confident, dignified and honest. The Lovings were salt-of-the-earth country folk who weren’t really interested in the wider implications of their case. They just wanted to go home and be left to love and live together. Who could argue against that? Loving is another triumph for Nichols and comes highly recommended. ****

  • emerb

    Director Jeff Nichols took inspiration for this powerful film from “The Loving Story”, a 2011 documentary by Nancy Buirski but his real inspiration came from the courage and commitment of the real life interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving, who married and then spent the next nine years fighting for the right to live as a family in their hometown. This historical movie revisits the era when blacks and whites were so segregated in parts of America that they couldn’t always wed. The Lovings were arrested in 1958 because he was white and she was not and the state of Viginia banned interracial unions. “Loving” charts their story from just before they wed to just after the U.S. Supreme Court
    struck down laws banning interracial marriage, including their decade-long legal fight to live in their home state as husband and wife.

    The film is set in the late 1950s in Virginia and in the opening scenes, young unmarried couple Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga) can’t seem to keep themselves off each other, whether they’re holding hands or just sitting quietly, it’s clear that they are madly in love. The only unusual thing about their relationship, considering the time and place, is that Mildred is black and Richard is white. They don’t see it as an issue but the state of Virginia does not share their view. When Mildred announces she is pregnant, Richard is overjoyed and they decide to wed. As they cannot legally exchange vows in Virginia, they must go to Washington, D.C. for the ceremony. They then
    move back in with her parents to begin raising a family of their own but once home, they find themselves dragged out of bed and later shoved in front of a judge, reminded that Virginia neither sanctions nor tolerates interracial marriage. They are temporarily jailed and only freed on condition that they leave Virginia and stay away for twenty-five years. As an exiled couple, they go to Washington and slowly adjust to city life in a cramped existence that neither enjoys. They long to go back to Virginia, where Richard planned to build Mildred a house. In defiance of the ruling, they return to Caroline County, initially for the birth of their first child (Richard’s mother is a midwife), and then permanently, because they cannot accept their exile. As the years pass, Mildred watches the progress of
    the civil rights movement and wonders what it might mean for her. In 1963 she decides to write to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to see whether he can help them in their plight and at the urging of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Lovings successfully challenge Virginia’s stance against interracial marriage in a landmark Supreme Court case. In 1967, the Courts find in their favour and the law of the land is changed. From that point, the Lovings became a powerful symbol of racial injustice.

    Both leads give terrific performances. Ruth Negga is a revelation – she is outstanding as the soft-spoken, gentle Mildred whose inner strength gives her the courage to take on the biggest challenge of her life. Joel Edgerton gives a fine turn too, fully embracing his rather dour, taciturn character who can’t understand why society is so opposed to his happiness.

    “Loving” is enthralling and beautiful and never become sentimental nor preachy, instead opting for a more down to earth approach about two people who just want to spend their lives together. This couple didn’t get married as an act of defiance, they got married because they loved each other. One of my favourite sequences was when a photographer from Life Magazine, Grey Villet (Michael Shannon – a favourite of Nicols’s), visits the Lovings for a photo shoot in 1965. He discreetly observes them washing dishes and watching television, with Richard’s head on Mildred’s lap. These casual yet intimate photos remain the most recognisable images of the Sixties and amazingly, they still have a powerful effect today. I thought this was a deeply touching, moving and heartbreaking film
    about daring to love and having the courage to stand by that love no matter what obstacles stand in the way.