I was excited for ‘Loving’, having first been introduced to writer and director Jeff Nichols with the movie ‘Mud’ starring Matthew McConaughey, a film which is a modern dramatic masterpiece. Earlier this year was ‘Midnight Special’, a unique science fiction film with several thought provoking ideas scattered throughout, about our world and the various philosophies and powers which guide us.
‘Loving’ is a film about Richard and Mildred Loving, a married couple who were targeted and arrested by the state of Virginia because they were interracial. This is an ugly part of modern American history, and as a strong believer in equality for all men and women, a film which depicts the ignorance and hatred which once was fully endorsed by American society is troublesome. However it also gives me hope, because we as a nation have made great strides in the proper direction and this is the story of that fight and that progress. This is a film about the fight for two people’s right to love one another and share that love openly.
There are a few negatives, which are to be expected in a character drama like this. There is a lot of detail about the relationship of Richard and Mildred, some of course is absolutely necessary, however at times it did really drag. As much as I support the message and the intention, the film does suffer with pacing issues. I would say 15-20 minutes of the film could have been removed to make it more crisp, though making such cuts can be difficult to a filmmaker with a clear vision.
Aside from this, I enjoyed everything else about this movie. Ruth Negga was incredible as Mildred Loving, her variety of expressions, and slight facial movements were indicative and powerful. You could tell when she was broken, scared, worried, or filled with hope, and you could feel her strength in a time where she needed it most. Ruth’s depiction of Mildred felt heroic. The fact that she was thrust into a situation she never asked for, but delivered something powerful for the whole world to see, is very inspiring.
Ruth may have stolen the show for me, but Joel Edgerton was also phenomenal. To some, his quiet demeanor may come off as irritating after some time, however, what can’t be questioned is the character’s love for his wife. Negga and Edgerton’s chemistry made me believe that they were a loving couple who were enduring such heavy oppression; they were quiet, but also very strong.
What I find best about Jeff Nichols is that he seems to develop a strong repertoire with his actors and that allows them to shine brighter than they ever have before. The leads may be superb and possibly even award-winning level, but the entire cast right down to the youngest actors, were well structured and reliable.
Nichols ability as a filmmaker to show a full range of emotion with limited words is excellent. When the characters do speak, they are saying something important. The musical score is beautiful, the cinematography while not up to the grand nature of previous movies was still of sound quality. The set designs and costumes were fitted to look like the 1950’s and early 1960’s with great care and detail.
Finally, the message of the movie is one of love and endurance against adversity, a thrilling idea in today’s testing times. While the film isn’t always pleasant for what it displays, it is important to never forget it.
Jeff Nichols has once again made an impacting film with outstanding lead actors, beautiful cinematography, and a valuable lesson about love and what we must sometimes endure to have justice. Nichols has proven himself in the upper echelon of master storytellers in modern film. He unearths a sometimes-forgotten dark time in American history to show us something beautiful and a future worth fighting for. It may not be the fastest paced movie of this year, but it is certainly among the more well made.