Jeff Nichols (Mud) directs Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga in the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, who waged a decade-long legal battle that led to the overturning of the state of Virginia’s law prohibiting interracial marriage.
Mildred and Richard Loving were arrested in 1958 for the crime of getting married. According to the state of Virginia, she was "colored," he was "white," and their marriage was illegal. Both were sentenced to a year in prison — a sentence that was only suspended on the condition that they leave Virginia. The couple fought that judgment before the US Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in their favour, bringing an end to Virginia's anti-miscegenation laws. This inspiring film from Jeff Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter) tells Mildred and Richard's story of romance and injustice with tenderness and wisdom.
The Civil Rights movement is still in its infancy when Richard (Joel Edgerton), a construction worker, proposes to Mildred (Ruth Negga) on the same Virginia acreage where he plans to build their home. It should be the beginning of a blissful period, but trouble is already brewing. Someone informs the authorities of Richard and Mildred's union. It is not long before police break down the couple's door and drag them off to the county jail. They face this indignity with stoicism, but the worst is yet to come.
Edgerton is taciturn but vulnerable, using body language to transmit both ferocious love and righteous outrage. Negga is nothing less than a revelation, conveying turbulent emotions with a glance. The subtle power of these performances is heightened by Nichols' refusal to reduce his story to speeches and high drama. In keeping with David Wingo's sombre score, Nichols doesn't push sentiment. He allows his characters' story to steep for greater resonance.
Loving does not revisit history merely to flatter the present. Rather, it recognizes how far we've come while implicitly reminding us how far we still have to go.
Roy Thomson Hall
Visa Screening Room (Elgin)