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article imageReview: ‘Loving’ is a rousing yet refined look at unplanned courage Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Nov 11, 2016 in Entertainment
‘Loving’ is the inspirational tale of a couple who were forced to fight to legitimize their love for each other and paved the way for other interracial couples in the process.
It can be difficult to believe that many of the rights women and minorities possess today were only granted in the last 50 years or so. Prejudices permeated governments and authorities, and their discrimination was supported by the law. It takes courage to challenge those who inherently hold the power in a conflict, especially when the penalties threaten to tear apart your family. But it’s often for that same family people find the courage to fight back. In Loving, an interracial couple must go all the way to the Supreme Court to legalize their marriage in the United States.
Richie (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga) practically grew up next door to each other in a poor part of Caroline County, VA. It’s no wonder they fell in love — and when Mildred got pregnant, Richie proposed. But interracial marriage is banned in the state of Virginia, so they went to Washington, D.C. to get their licence. However, upon returning, the police break down their bedroom door in the middle of the night and charged them with "cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth." Their punishment is a 25-year ban from re-entering the state, which means leaving behind their home and families. But Mildred never gave up hope that they would one day be able to return and when the civil rights movement began to take hold of the country, her hope grew. Assigned a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), their case would eventually be heard by the Supreme Court and would cause similar anti-miscegenation laws across the country to be stricken down.
This is a very important story in the history of the United States as it was determined marriage is an inherent right and couldn’t be denied interracial couples – the same wouldn’t be declared for same-sex couples for almost 50 years. Nonetheless, the movie portrays what was essentially a very personal struggle for the Lovings. They felt they were being treated unfairly by the law and wanted nothing more than to return to the home they were forced to leave. As Richie states, they weren’t hurting anyone. However, when one looks at the faces of the cops and judge who carry out their sentence, you’d think they clubbed a kitten. It had become acceptable for white and black people to work together, but the South still held firm that they shouldn’t be together.
What’s most impressive about this story is its restraint. In spite of the usual pressures to exaggerate a tale for dramatic effect or make sure the characters pull on the audience’s heartstrings at even intervals, this movie sticks to the very simple story of a couple wanting to go home. There’s only one instance in which the drama seems somewhat contrived, but it’s also a plausible scenario not incompatible with the narrative. While Mildred, when asked, agrees that a win in their case would help a lot of other people, their priority is to help themselves and decriminalize their own marriage. But it’s not selfish or ignorant — it’s a matter of them not presuming anyone else would or should be so concerned about what happens in the privacy of their own walls.
Being at the centre of the narrative, the film rests on the shoulders of Edgerton and Negga and they handle the weight of the task gracefully. In spite of seeming a little broody and a man of few words, there is never any doubt that Richie loves Mildred. He would do anything to make her happy as long as they could be together. Since Richie doesn’t say a lot or express many emotions, the character requires a lot of subtlety on Edgerton’s part as well as unbound joy on the few occasions he shows it. Mildred is his opposite; she’s thoughtful, persistent and does her best to keep a smile on her face, which widens as she attempts to make up for Richie’s lack of one. She demonstrates a lot of strength as she’s forced to endure repeated humiliation at the hands of the authorities. Negga is a constant shining light that finds a balance between a positive attitude and her wit’s end on several occasions. Their ACLU-appointed lawyer, Bernard Cohen, is played by Nick Kroll. He is so enthusiastic about landing a case that could go to the Supreme Court, he can’t stop smiling even when delivering bad news. He’s one of the films few amusing characters as there isn’t space for many of them.
Writer/director Jeff Nichols brings his aptitude for understated drama to this inspiring story of a couple’s love truly overcoming the odds and the hate that surrounded them.
Director: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton and Will Dalton
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