I have been rooting for director Jeff Nichols to get the kind of attention he deserves for years. His previous films (Mud, Take Shelter) have captured the minds of indie audiences everywhere, but he has never gotten the acknowledgement from his peers that I’ve felt he deserves. ‘Loving’ may be the movie that finally puts him in awards season contention and lands him in front of major audiences. It’s sweet, endearing, and about one of the most important events of the 20th century.
I have likely asked myself about a dozen times in my life, “I wonder how the law letting blacks and whites get married came about?” Yet, my intellectual curiosity never made the leap to simply look it up on google. Not that I can remember anyways. Although, I may have looked it up and just simply have forgotten. Well, I certainly will not forget again. Richard and Mildred Loving may be simple people, but (as played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga) the love they had for each other was so sweet that’s it’s oddly unforgettable to bare witness to.
The simple fact of this story is that Richard and Mildred Loving drove to Washington D. C. in the fall of 1958 and got married where they could. Then they came back home to Virginia and were arrested for being together. They got a lawyer who was friendly with the judge and were banished from the state. They were forced to leave all of their family and broke the judges ruling a few times for the birth of their first child and eventually because they did not want to raise their children in the inner cities.
While living in Washington, they were approached by the ACLU’s lawyers to bring a case against the state of Virginia. A plan arose that could lead the case to the Supreme Court. Which it eventually did and they won their freedoms. Now, the movie is about that historical fact, but it doesn’t really concentrate on it. The focal point is on the Loving family and their love for each other. It is a very simple story with a very big story around it. Which is a really unique way of doing this.
I do think that Nichols could have made a more sweeping and emotional film had he gone the Hollywood route. That film might have been better or more impactful, but it would certainly be less authentic. This film deals with a family and their dynamics. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga give beautiful and subtle performances. There is nothing that jumps out at you and the best sequences are just a few lines of dialogue. Nichols is no Spielberg, but he is a voice that is worth having. This is a movie that is worth celebrating.
So, in the end, I still strongly recommend this film. It is a movie that will put a smile on your face. And after a hateful election season, it will remind you of how easy this country can divide along lines of hate, but how we always seem to overcome in the long run. It is a message that is important and a film of subtle beauty. Go see it.