LOVING | Fangirl Critic Pick | Directed by Jeff Nichols Biography | Drama | PG-13 | 2h 3m
By Cherry Davis NOV. 3, 2016
Anti-miscegenation laws or miscegenation laws were laws that enforced racial segregation at the level of marriage and intimate relationships by criminalizing interracial marriage and sometimes also sex between members of different races.
Just think what that means and how a couple in Virginia changed the course of marriage for people of all races and sexual orientation.
I was familiar with the Loving story but seeing their story in this political landscape reminded me how far we’ve come but how much further we have to go for true equality for all people (race, sexual orientation, citizenship). My heart was in my throat from the opening scene. Jeff Nichol’s caressed this story with the eyes of love and it speaks to the division of America’s past and current division of race. Loving takes us back to a time with anti-miscegenation laws were on the books in many states so when Mildred and Richard crossed state lines to marry in Washington, DC it started a domino affect that is still cited in court cases today. A white man and woman of color (Black and Native American) could not legally marry in Virginia. Virginia passed the first law in 1691 to prevent interracial couples from having children.
Loving takes place in the late 1950s with Mildred (Ruth Negga) and Richard (Joel Edgerton) a young couple in love living in a small area outside of town (where the blacks, Native Americans and poor whites) lived in an easy peace. Mildred and Richard have a chemistry and deep friendship that was noticed not just by white but black people and not everyone approved but most didn’t say anything as long as they seemed to be ‘spending time’ with one another.
I noticed the looks from a few white men at the race and a black woman at the fabric store. But they were protected by their love and affection but eventually the read world intruded in their fairy tale.
Mr. Nichols (‘Take Shelter’, ‘Mud’) has a light touch with the film that follows the couple as if you’re an angel looking over their shoulders. It’s a film of small sights and long lingering looks (not always of passion) where love runs up against a brick wall and refuses to stop. Some people may not know the history of our country but in the 1950s Jim Crow was the law of many states as in the signs that say ‘Separate but Equal’ and it was a time when America was in a huge upheaval with the beginning steps of the Civil Rights movement.
The Loving’s first come to the attention of the local police after they return from Washington, DC and happily display the marriage license. They fell asleep in each other arms and woke to Sheriff R. Garnett Brooks (Marton Csokas) and his deputies with flashlights and angry voices. It was the first inkling of how they had crossed the ‘invisible’ line that they were never to have crossed. Mildred and Richard were arrested and jailed for not following the law against interracial marriage in Virginia. From that moment your heart will be beating so fast for them fear of the legal ramifications, the unspoken threat of being lynched and if their love would survive the many obstacles in their path.
Looking at this couple and how Mildred finally had said ‘enough’ she wanted her life with her beloved husband, children and extended family back and the lengths/sacrifices is simply fascinating. Watching their story unfold from Richard’s deep connection with black people and easy kinship to Mildred’s close relationship with her family the film takes the photo from ‘Life’ magazine and give them life. The team behind the movie from set, location, cast, makeup, hair, cinematography and direction made this feel like we had stepped back in time. It’s incredibly moving to tell the story of two people fighting the state of VA with the assistance of the ACLU, a green lawyer wanting to fight the law, the Georgetown Professor who introduces him to his more experience co-counsel and all the moving parts to find the right case to strike down these laws is simply fascinating.
The story of the Lovings have been told in numerous books and movies over the decades but Mr. Nichol’s found ‘The Loving Story’ (2011) documentary directed by Nancy Buirski with archival film footage to be an inspiration of the family. Seeing them as people and how they interacted with one another enabled him to write/direct a film that truly reflects this couple. A woman who may have been shy but had a will of iron when it came to her family and a strong solid husband who always took care of his wife and put his family first even over the objections from kin and the law.
This film is like a river that follows it’s own path no matter how long it may take to carve out the land. I strongly recommend this film for the quiet moments, the sighs and yes the love that fought to be heard all the way to the Supreme Court.
Loving celebrates the real-life courage and commitment of an interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving (portrayed in the film by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), who fell in love and were married in 1958 from acclaimed writer/director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud, Midnight Special).
The couple had grown up in Central Point, a small town in Virginia that was more integrated than surrounding areas in the American South. Yet it was the state of Virginia, where they were making their home and starting a family, that first jailed and then banished them. Richard and Mildred relocated with their children to the inner city of Washington, D.C. While relatives made them feel welcome there, the more urban environment did not feel like home to them. Ultimately, the pull of their roots in Virginia would spur Mildred to try to find a way back.Their civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia, went all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1967 reaffirmed the very foundation of the right to marry. Richard and Mildred returned home and their love story has become an inspiration to couples ever since.