Dan's Review: "Loving" finds beauty in simplicity
Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton in Loving - © 2016 – Focus Features/Universal
Loving (Focus Features/Universal)
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements.
Starring Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Nick Kroll, Michael Shannon, Marton Csokas, Jon Bass, Bill Camp, David Jensen, Terri Abney, Sharon Blackwood, Christopher Mann, Winter-Lee Holland, Alano Miller, Michael Abbott Jr.
Written and directed by Jeff Nichols.
The Supreme Court has handed down a lot of controversial rulings over the years dealing with politics, the economy, and the scope of government. Lost in all the political and cultural knee-jerk reaction s to some of the Court’s heated decisions are real cases involving real people; some of them good, some of them bad, and some of them just simple folk who want their share of constitutional justice. Such is the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple behind one of the last notable court cases brought on by the injustices of slavery and segregation – brought to life in Jeff Nichols’ Loving.
Joel Edgerton stars as Richard Loving, a white mechanic and brick mason living in Virginia in the late 1950s. The love of his life is Midred Jeter, a woman of African/native American heritage, and the woman carrying Richard’s baby. The couple decide to marry, but because of Virginia’s state law banning interracial marriage, they travel to Washington D.C. to make their vows. Upon return, someone tips off the local sheriff (Marton Csokas), and the Lovings are arrested and thrown in jail. They hire a lawyer who arranges for a plea deal that will allow them to bypass a 25-year prison sentence if they will agree to leave the state and never return. They move to D.C., and begin to raise their family (grown to three children over the next few years). City life does not agree with the Lovings, and they return in secret to a remote farmhouse in Virginia. Before returning, Mildred contacts Attorney General Robert Kennedy asking if there’s anything he can do. RFK refers her to the American Civil Liberties Union, and a young lawyer named Bernie Cohen takes up their case. The Lovings are soon found out, but with the ACLU and Cohen behind them, their case moves up the legal system until it reaches the Supreme Court. Their case also attracts media attention, though they shy away from the limelight.
The rest, they say, is history, and you can figure out what happened to their case with a quick Google search.
Loving is a beautiful, simple film that focuses on the people behind the landmark court case, instead of using it as a bullhorn to preach on race or other polemic cultural issues. Jeff Nichols (who wrote the script as well) should be commended for making a beautiful movie and telling the story of two common but decent people whose only crime was “loving” each other. The cinematography and scenery are equally simple and beautiful.
I cannot rave enough about Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga’s performances. They are able to personify the people at the heart of the legal drama, without being overdramatic. Edgerton’s quiet, heartfelt performance is especially moving, as he portrays a man who is only trying to protect and love his family, not push a landmark case to the Supreme Court.
In the end, Loving is a movie that lives up to its name, and it’s well worth seeing.