Loving is an incredible true story of a forbidden love between two simple country folk in 1960s Virginia, one of whom happened to be Black in the wrong place at the wrong time. Its release runs parallel to the uproarious revival of the civil rights movement that is taking place in our modern era. The movie, however, plays a cool hand and keeps melodrama at bay. Instead, director Jeff Nichols takes a straightforward approach to the plot.
This tale of racial segregation is centred around the marriage of Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton), a white bricklayer, to the African-American Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga). The young couple are arrested twice on counts of miscegenation and breaking parole by re-entering the state. Five years pass as quiet, doe-eyed Mildred takes care of three children and Richard adapts stoically to any situation necessary to support his family. The pace picks up about an hour and a half in, when they start working with civil rights lawyers (Nick Kroll and Jon Bass) to take their case to the Supreme Court and politely demand the right to raise their family wherever they please without fear of incarceration.
The talented Ethiopian actress faithfully inhabits a character who was always camera-shy and averse to being called a hero, despite playing a major role in legalising interracial marriage nationwide. Mildred’s relationship with Richard seems oddly unconvincing at first, for the historical drama is slightly rushed to fit in all the important events, but, ultimately, a rare, deep devotion is portrayed on both sides, with never a hostile moment seen between the couple, even in the face of harrowing circumstances.
Nichols has depicted the struggles of the civil rights movement through the eyes of an ordinary family and a couple of hopeful lawyers – and he’s thrown in some gorgeous camera work as well. The soundtrack delightfully includes old folk and blues classics by the likes of Willie Dixon and Jerry Butler, but still colours its quiet moments with modern orchestral interludes, at odds with the film’s rural 50s and 60s themes.
Aside from a slow start, Loving proves highly educational with modest dialogue spoken in a soft, historically accurate southern drawl. It is not pretentious or moralistic and the characters show genuine signs of stress and love without having to express them in words. We all know equality wasn’t achieved without bloodshed, but it is a breath of fresh air to see a true story of good people taking on and winning against the Constitution itself.
Loving is released nationwide on 3rd February, 2017.
Watch the trailer for Loving here: