Directed by Jeff Nichols of Take Shelter, Mud and Midnight Special fame, Loving follows
the 1967 civil rights case, Loving V. Virginia, where interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving, were exiled from their home of Caroline, County Virginia for breaking the anti-miscegenation laws.
The film is beautiful. Shot by Adam Stone on 35mm film, with specially designed lenses no less, it combines an antique aesthetic with modern sensibilities. The fact that it is shot on film lends it a realness and an organic quality that Stone was aiming for. There is a palpable texture to the film that I always find so appealing, film is about transportation and exploration and I feel transported to 1967 Virginia. The muted colour pallet and soft naturalist lighting speak to the realness of the characters and situation. The angles as well provide a great deal of intimacy that is sometimes lacking in civil-rights films that prioritises the fight rather than the people.
The plot is also something of a marvel; while much louder and more bombastic films would have focused on the court case, and how an up-and-coming civil rights lawyer fought for a couple’s freedom to love, what Nichols does is focus on the story of the Loving’s relationship in an everyday setting. It is refreshing to see the mundane struggles of a couple, which are then compounded by a national court case which happens off screen. This is entirely different to Nichol’s previous film Midnight Special, which started so strong, but ended so poorly that I was left hating the film for what it failed to deliver. Loving is a masterclass in human drama, nothing happens. We watch the Loving’s children grow up, we see Richard Loving go to work, and we see them watch TV, but everything happens during those moments at the same time; it is a film about people being in love, we can see that, they don’t need to do anything to prove it to themselves or to the audience.
However what absolutely shines above both these aspects is the performances. Joel Edgerton, who was in Nichol’s earlier film Midnight Special, as well as taking the part of Tom Buchanan in the recent adaptation of Great Gatsby, while slightly incoherent at times does a stellar job as a loving father and husband. But Ruth Negga as Mildred Loving blows everyone else out of the water; her Oscar nomination is a testament to that. I had seen and enjoyed her in Marvels Agents of Shield and Preacher, but in Loving, she is entirely different; it is clear that with the right material and director she can do amazing things, her eyes convey a strength and emotion, so words will not do it justice, it has to be seen to be believed. A brief aside, how BAFTA only nominated her for a rising star award rather than best actress, and why she lost out to Spiderman is beyond me and should be considered a crime.
I cannot even begin to say how much I loved this film; a beautiful tale of grace and subtlety, and subtlety is the watchword when it comes to Loving. There is no big speech about the power of love, there is a demonstration of it, as Richard and Mildred stand by each other and make their life together it is all the more powerful because it whispers rather than shouts.