November 16, 2016

CINEMA | 'Loving' the Ordinary

"Tell the judge I love my wife."
Joel Edgerton Ruth Negga Jeff Nichols | Loving

Richard and Mildred Loving were ordinary people—save for their extraordinarily appropriate surname—who just wanted to be married in spite of the colour of their skin. In the very appropriately titled Loving, filmmaker Jeff Nichols recreates 1950-60s Virginia to retell the real-life love story that ultimately led to the decade-long Loving v. Virginia legal battle and legalized interracial marriage nationwide in America.

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga play the titular couple both with uniformly deep beauty and gentle grace. Negga is sensational as the sweet but strong Mildred who defiantly makes her family in her own image. She understatedly builds a complete portrait of a simultaneously complex yet simple everywoman. Edgerton brings a soulful and quiet reflectiveness to his working class Richard who intensely valued his privacy. His performance allows for enough moments of parting thoughtfulness through his gruff demeanour.

Nichols eschews the overdramatic conventions of historical biopics and frames the Lovings as who they were, painfully normal people, who just wanted to build a home and family on their terms in their home state of Virginia. Time passes, struggles endure, babies born, kids raised, and life goes on in spite of the rights they lack.

Comedians Nick Kroll and Jon Bass play against type as ACLU lawyers in the last act when things finally culminate in the landmark Supreme Court decision the couple never bothered to attend the verdict of as they remained steadfastly content to live and love privately until the very end. It's quite a portrait of humanity and modesty even as their notoriety raises throughout the country cementing America's racial history.

Loving is a quietly moving and powerfully beautiful film about love and marriage equality in the context of not just race but individual humanity. It covers nearly the entire history of one couple's struggle to be together in peace. It's a remarkably restrained film about emotion and compassion. Nichols continues to prove his thoughtful skills as a mature filmmaker able to tackle not only genre but real-life drama exquisitely.

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