By: Oberst von Berauscht (A Toast) –
Late one night in 1958, the home of Richard and Mildred Loving is invaded by police, who arrest them and put them in jail. Their arrest was for the crime of Miscegenation, of marrying and living together, because Richard was a white man, and Mildred was black. Richard, a bricklayer, was raised in a community where race wasn’t really a major concern, and didn’t give a second thought to proposing marriage to Mildred, to whom he felt deeply attached. Richard & Mildred believed they would be legally covered because their marriage took place in Washington D.C., but as they lived in rural Virginia, which did not recognize interracial marriage, they soon found themselves unable to stay together if they wished to continue to reside in their home state.
This began a nearly 10 year legal struggle which would reach as high as the United States Supreme Court. During those 10 years, Richard & Mildred maintained their legal case, but as with all things life goes on, and their primary focus was in raising their children, and ensuring their future.
Director Jeff Nichols has emerged in the 2000s as one of the most dependable and sensitive writer/directors. All of his films show a deep and thoughtful focus on humanity, and of character that is so often absent in modern filmmaking. While none of his films follow any set genre template, all of them focus on how its characters deal realistically with extraordinary circumstances to which they are presented.
Loving may be the most simple story Nichols has had to tell, but it is also his deepest emotionally. In an almost subborn fashion, Nichols avoids the trappings of legal drama and “message” movies, preferring instead to draw on the way Richard & Mildred Loving carried on living. The legal aspect of the story is background noise, occasionally calling attention to their life together, but never overtaking it.
As Richard Loving, Joel Edgerton gives the performance of a lifetime, utterly disappearing into character as the quintessential blue-collar husband, providing for his family and caring deeply for their best interests. Not of any particular high education, Richard fumbles when speaking to lawyers and is never fully comfortable with the attention brought by the legal case. The only thing that matters to him, that he understands, and that he cares about, is his family, for whom he bears unshakable devotion.
And as Mildred, Ruth Negga is stunning as well, initially being as ignorant to the big picture as her husband, but after paying attention to the growing Civil Rights movement in the news, she is moved to press her case further. It is clear that neither Mildred nor Richard want to make news, they just want for themselves what they deserve as citizens of an allegedly free country. Michael Shannon, as is customary in Jeff Nichols films, makes an apperance, this time as a Life Magazine photographer, who succeeds in capturing the Loving family at their most vunerable moments, without an ounce of the voyeurism so often attributed to the trade.
There have been numerous films in recent years exploring race relations, but without making any big statements, or speeches, and without demonizing those who oppose them, Loving speaks volumes. There is more power and meaning in one wordless scene of Loving than hours of blustery historical biopics.
The story of Loving is not of the court case, or even of the Civil Rights struggle. Loving is a story of the life two people live for each other, and build together.
Loving (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every time Joel Edgerton mumbles
Take a Drink: for bricks
Do a Shot: for confused/dirty looks by people
Do a Shot: for awkward lawyer conversations