Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Movie Review: Loving (2016)

Loving (2016) - Written and Directed by Jeff Nichols; Starring Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton, Will Dalton, Nick Kroll, Michael Shannon.

By Kenny Howell

Understatement is underused in historical films these days.

There are always the big moments with swelling orchestral music, or the antagonists are way over exaggerated, even if they were already an over exaggeration in real life in the first place.

Writer-Director Jeff Nichols (Midnight Special) does not do that with Loving, the true story of Mildred and Richard Loving, the interracial couple who were ordered to leave the state of Virginia after getting married in Washington, D.C. They were jailed, released, then moved out of state to follow the court order.

A few years later, Mildred wrote a letter to Robert Kennedy, who couldn't take on the case, but passed it on to the ACLU. They approached the reluctant couple who just wanted to keep more unwarranted attention away from them about fighting the ruling. The case eventually made it to the Supreme Court where it was overturned and made marriage between a man and a woman an inherent right of all people across the United States, no matter their skin color.

This could have been overdone, but I think the tone fits the Loving family, which were quiet and workmanlike, just wanting to live their lives and keep everyone else out of it. There are no big boogeymen that keep haunting them throughout the film, just the overwhelming pressure from a state that was on the wrong side of history.

Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby) perfectly capture that understated tone, as they have a mixture of defeat, fear, but love for one another and a persistence to prevail underneath it all. There are no big actory type moments that you could put in awards ceremony clips, it is just solid character work by the both of them. The story is just an important piece of history, well done by Nichols and his team.

Rating: ***1/2

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