Directed by Jeff Nichols
Starring Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Nick Kroll
Director Jeff Nichols has dominated 2016 with two very different films exploring the realms of family. In Midnight Special, Nichols crafted a sci-fi drama rich in emotion. In Loving, Nichols crafts a relationship drama rich in history and love. Supported by awards-worthy performances, Loving is a based-on-truth story about tolerance and inclusion that couldn't be more timely today.
Beyond the dirt roads of rural Virginia, Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga) quickly build a married life full of tenderness and love. While those directly around them are as supportive as family and friends can be, their status as an interracial couple tests their strength and courage in the face of a legal system set out to keep them apart. After spending days in jail, the two are forced to separate or move out of state. The drive to their new home in Washington, DC is somber and quiet, leading to nine years of legal battles, personal struggles, and plenty of unconditional love.
The film serves a platter of dynamic scenes and dialogue on which its stars, Edgerton and Negga, can chew. Negga, especially, delivers quite the eye-opening and understated performance as Mildred. Her cinematic, natural beauty is enough to remind of movie stars from the Golden Era of Hollywood. But, beyond that, its her approach to the story with such care that sets her apart. One scene in particular, when she delivers the line about losing the battles, but winning the war, will be a piece of this film's legacy. It's quite the introduction to a talent we'll be seeing far more of in the future.
Edgerton, in his own right an under-appreciated talent, gives a career best performance of the rugged and simple Richard. When Mildred chooses to allow high powered attorneys dictate their next steps, even if that means unwanted media attention, Richard lovingly goes along with the plan. It's the glances between the two that sell their love. It's the looks in their eyes that sells the passion. These are characters madly in love. Rarely does a film capture that honesty so with such raw vigor.
Loving isn't a perfect picture. Its stilted pace allows it to lose some of its glamour, especially when it feels like the story has already ended, but continues on for a last bite. It excels, however, at creating a legal story about humanity that feels far less courtroom drama as it is a commentary on life and love. Director Nichols' special care with the true story shines throughout, offering plenty of respect and dignity to characters society would generally overlook.
Negga and Edgerton are possible locks for Academy attention, as they should be. With a movie like Loving, which is about the human spirit, the story means nothing without its characters. Both actors solidly understand and deliver exactly what's required: humanity in the shapes of two ordinary people who fell in love under extraordinary circumstances.
Runtime: 123 minutes