Film Review: “Loving” (2016)

“Loving” (2016)

5stars_small

Drama

Running Time: 123 minutes

Director: Jeff Nichols

Featuring: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Nick Kroll, Michael Shannon and Marton Csokas

Virginia Judge: “Richard Perry Loving being a white person, and Mildred Jeter being a colored person did unlawfully cohabitate as man and wife.”

Isn’t life hard enough without having people and governments telling you how you can live and where you can make a home with your family? This is the dilemma faced by The Lovings, and one of the meanings behind this new film directed by Jeff Nichols, and arrives at a time where the US is as divided as any point in its history. This film could not be more relevant and in its way as prescient as if it were made fifty years ago.

“Loving” follows the courtship and marriage of Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga), a black woman, and Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton), a white man. They are arrested and sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958, because their interracial marriage violates the state’s anti-miscegenation laws. Exiled to Washington, D.C., they sue the state of Virginia in a series of proceedings leading to the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Loving v. Virginia, which holds that laws prohibiting interracial marriage are unconstitutional.

This is the second film from Jeff Nichols this year and could not be more different that one; it was the Sci-Fi “Midnight Special” (2016), which in itself was also about family and relationships, themes that inhabit all of Nichols work from “Take Shelter” (2007) through to “Loving”, possibly his greatest cinematic achievement so far.

“Loving” is a film that comes at a time when the issues raised in the film are going to be the number one concern moving into the next ten years as a Trump Presidency takes hold. After little more than two weeks since the US election there has been violence against minorities in ways that are condoned like a time not seen in fifty years. It is a shame that this film resonates through our current lives as people with little agency are unable to speak for themselves.

The two lead actors Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton play two very different charcters, Edgerton plays Richard Loving a man of few words but giant actions as a white man who doesn’t see the color of peoples skin, he just see friends and family; Negga on the other hand is a woman raised in the country and she see this as her natural home with the city being an alien environment. All they want to is to be left alone and through many trials they gain their metaphorical and literal freedom from others.

If you watch enough movies Joel Edgerton is an actor who has been making his mark over the past ten years in films such as “Kinky Boots” (2005), “Warrior” (2011), “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012), “The Great Gatsby” (2013), “Black Mass” (2015) and “Midnight Special” (2016), and he is turning into an actor that inhabits his roles and is not playing versions of himself – a tricky prospect for an Australian actor in Hollywood – and he shines here in what must be his most successful role yet.

Ruth Negga is more of unknown quantity to most audiences and is probably best know for the number of excellent English TV shows she has been involved in. Negga is also a main part of the excellent new show “Preacher” (2016-) and this film lets her shine as the lead in a film that illustrates her skill as an actress to keep an eye on.

The film recreates some of the actual photos taken of the couple and you see these in the film – the one that stands out and is seen at the very end of the film is Richard laying in Mildred’s lap while they are watching TV – it is a very good reflection of the couples relationship as they were devoted to each other and their three children.

For me this is one of the films of the year and you should seek it out as soon as possible. “Loving” is also one of those films that will come to reflect our times right now and a warning to all that would seek to subjugate any person.

If you enjoyed this then try:

“Love Field” (1992)

“In the Heat of the Night” (1967)

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Author: spryfilm

I am a reviewer of films and television at Spryfilm.com

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