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Loving – Movie Review

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Loving – Movie Review

Rating: A- (Great)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

The expectation for a film about a famous Supreme Court ruling is probably that of a courtroom drama with a lot of big speeches and grand moments. However, director/writer Jeff Nichols decides the best approach for the Loving v Virginia case is to focus primarily on the couple at the centre of it and them trying to be as quiet about this as possible. Richard and Mildred Loving wanted to just live their lives and raise their children in their state of choice. Loving mostly consists of them going through their day-to-day activities with others occasionally popping in to show their support or distaste.

The focus on the Lovings’ home life is key to what makes this film so masterfully directed by Nichols. There’s a slower pace to the film than one might expect and that works in transporting us back to that time. These were two people who lived in fear of returning to their home state and that fright is portrayed in subtle ways. When they are locked up and Richard has to plea for his wife’s freedom, the police treat it as a regular way of thinking that they shouldn’t be married rather than their own racism wanting them apart. They are shown in front of a judge as if this was a crime, which it was unfortunately considered for many years in the United States. The film never throws the horribleness of the era in our faces, instead choosing to take a more subtle approach with presenting these attitudes. Most modern audiences know this racism was wrong. What is important is getting rid of those horrible laws.

It is more-so the lawyers who see the possible overturning of this law as historic, enough that their principal attorney Bernie Cohen’s ideas seem almost outlandish to the Lovings. This is played with seriousness and subtle humour by Nichols, almost to show the absurdity of the situation. Through most of Loving, we mainly see the Lovings at home and raising their children. That becomes the #1 priority for them and there is something touching about seeing them play with their sons and daughter. This is a regular, normal couple somehow deemed unnatural by the courts of Virginia. By not calling a ton of attention to it and having so many scenes of the Lovings living their life, that only shows just how ridiculous it was this wasn’t considered the norm back then. It’s a brilliant example of storytelling and ingraining those ideas into the audience’s head on Nichols’s part.

Elevating the film further are the exceptional performances. Joel Edgerton is rather quiet here, befitting both the tone of the film and who he is playing. Most of his acting consists of quietly looking at somebody with confusion or irritation. However, the way he looks at his wife is different from everyone else, that of love and adoration. It’s a tricky role to play and Edgerton pulls it off magnificently. Ruth Negga is a revelation with the most expressive eyes. We see what a wonderful mother and wife she is, trying to figure out how to get out of this situation with her family being of utmost importance. A surprising turn comes from Nick Kroll as Bernie Cohen. Primarily known for goofy comedic roles, this marks a change for Kroll and he’s believable as the lawyer and also remembers the film is about the Lovings. Cohen mainly exists to get the Supreme Court’s attention and getting the ball rolling for this landmark case.

Loving could have been a big, epic struggle between the racism of the era and a couple intend on changing the future of marriage laws in the United States. However, the Lovings did not expect this case would become a massive game-changer. They just wanted to be happy with little interference from others and without the risk of going to jail. Jeff Nichols understands this and his film portrays their love remarkably well. Some audience members may find this understandably slow-going, but for some, this will be a strong peek into the lives of this couple and the beautiful family they formed. We just happen to thank them for playing a role in changing one of the most racist laws in the United States and paving the way for more happy couples.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE

Stefan Ellison