Film & TV Film Reviews Muse

Review: Loving

Pleasant moments are rare, but the connection between Richard and Mildred feels very real, says Martha Wright

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Image: Focus Features

Director: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga
Length: 2hr
Rating: 12A

Richard and Mildred Loving, played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, have the simple desire of building a normal life. Their love is uncomplicated yet the struggles that surround them are anything but.

"I'm pregnant"

The first words of the film begin what for most couples is a happy time, but for the Loving's is a constant battle. Richard is white and Mildred is black. Under state law, this means the couple's relationship becomes an issue of everyone's business. After marrying in Washington DC they buy an acre of land in their home of Virginia. They hold the honest dream of building their own home to raise their children in. But a couple who want nothing more than a quiet life in the countryside are faced with constant oppression, legalities and questions. The crux the film comes at midnight; asleep in the safety of their own bed, their house is broken into, their out-of-state marriage license disregarded by the racist chief of police and the pair, with Mildred pregnant, are thrown into jail for the 'crime' of anti-miscegenation.

Loving is portrayed under the direction of Jeff Nichols, an American writer who has delved into a variety of genres, from the sci-fi of Midnight Special to the psychological thriller of Take Shelter. Nichols gives the film a restrained approach, looking at the desired privacy of the characters. Skipping over what could have been dramatic court moments, Nichols prefers to look at the delicate intimacy of the characters and their personal experiences through the difficulties of forever striving for something that for couples of the same race is utterly effortless. To be together.

The brash discrimination against an interracial couple in 1950's America is one that's hard to chew. Their crime is nothing more than love. Mildred not once threatens those against her yet portrays an incredibly strong and determined woman. Humble but very very powerful, Loving focuses on raw love, only touching on the riots, marches, and speeches that fought the battle elsewhere. There are no big moments and the intimate civil-rights drama isn't melodramatic or glamorised. Nichols has captured the everyday discrimination with ordinary characters. He tells the rather reserved tale of the breakthrough that sparked the overhaul of interracial laws nationwide. In fact, the actors are so modest in their roles, that the importance of their legal battle is almost overlooked, much like the true story of the Lovings themselves. The telling of their story highlights the ever relevant issue of simply ignoring discrimination. The Loving's are a scarcely known couple, yet a couple whose love changed the US laws of love forever.

Loving has no need for lengthy speeches or dramatised outcries. Although some may criticise the film for having little spectacle, a love story is a timeless story. The acting from Negga and Edgerton is saturated with genuine humanity, telling a greater tale with their eyes when dialogue wouldn't have matched the strength of expression. Loving is a modest story that reflects the modest couple that centre it. For Mildred, a black woman marrying a white man, she will always be under constant oppression. But Richard, he's just beginning to be on the cruel end of discrimination, only understand the privilege he'd previously receive. Richard more openly struggles with the difficulties they face; it's a new phenomenon for him. The individual stories of the Loving's are very different but their passion for each other is the same. Although the pleasant moments are rare, the warm love, smiles and laughter between Richard and Mildred is very real.

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