Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga) are an interracial couple in 1958 Virginia’s Caroline County. We first see them in an afternoon street car race. Richard is the mechanic for the group of guys that are running. It’s apparent that Richard has been a part of this team for years and that his dating Mildred is accepted by the group. When their car defeats some guys from the area, and Richard celebrates openly with Mildred, they get quite a few ugly looks from the white crowd.
Later that night there is quite a celebration at Mildred’s family’s home, where once again Richard is accepted as part of the household. The next day, a nervous Mildred tells Richard that she is pregnant. He reacts with joy and insistence that they get married. They tell their families, with the only resistance from Mildred’s sister (Terri Abney). Richard and Mildred head to Washington D.C. to get married. The civil ceremony goes off without a hitch, and the couple head back to Caroline County. A proud Richard hangs their marriage certificate on the wall.
In what seems like just a few days, someone has told the authorities about the wedding. We see several cars drive up to the house in the middle of the night. A sheriff (Marton Csokas) and his men break down Richard and Mildred’s door. It seems that Richard and Mildred Loving are in violation of a Virginia law that forbids interracial marriage. The couple are thrown in jail (in separate cells), and now both are going to go on a journey that will test their love for one another and put them, their friends and family in danger.
Jeff Nichols is one of my favorite directors. He has written and directed the fantastic “Take Shelter” (2011), my Atlanta Film Festival favorite “Mud” (2012) and the Sci-Fi blast of a film, “Midnight Special” (2016). He doesn’t disappoint again with bringing us a tale of unending love and incredible pain in “Loving.” It’s a story of incredible courage, and we suffer at every indignity the Loving’s suffer in this film. Being told that your love is illegal and you must leave your home and family if you want to stay together, is heartbreaking and focus the Loving’s to make incredibly tough choices. Nichols lets us into their world slowly, letting us understand the time-period and just what they were dealing with on a daily basis. Nichols has created two people that while different, fit perfectly together. Richard is a man who just wants to protect his wife from the outside world. He is a man of few words, feeling if he can just build a life for himself and his family, everything will work out. Mildred is a fighter, willing to speak her mind when it’s necessary and goes through life with a strong-willed determination. Nichols lets us see that through their love and determination, the Loving’s have a chance to survive in this world, but it’s not going to be easy.
The pacing feels perfect in this 2-hour film. Nichols lets his characters live in the moments, both big and small. The dialogue is sometimes sparse but those moments are helped by the beautiful score of David Wingo. Director of photography Adam Stone and production designer Chad Keith bring out the stark backwoods of Virginia, contrasting to the big city when they are forced to move out of the Virginia.
Joel Egerton absolutely embodies Richard Loving, the bricklaying country boy who falls in love with his whole head and heart. It’s an incredible performance of a man who takes simple pleasures and makes them his to savor. He has found a channel into this man’s soul and lets us all understand the man with a screen presence that while strong, also seems to sink a little into doorways. Ruth Negga gives an equally powerful performance as the woman who is defiant in her love for a man that is her soul mate. Negga gives Mildred an air of strength and steely resolve, whether trying to survive alone in a cell or deciding where to have her child. Edgerton and Negga work well on screen together, giving us a feeling that their characters belong together. While Edgerton’s performance is powerful, it’s Negi’s brilliant take on this amazing woman that makes this film work and worth watching.
Nichols has done a masterful job of making this true story real and meaningful. The Loving’s story is one for the ages, and this film will stay with you for a long time. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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