Film Review: Loving

Jeff Nichols’ Loving is sincere and thoughtful drama based on a real case. Whilst the tone of the film is aptly pensive, the film lacks the punch some may expect.

Richard and Mildred are an interracial couple in Virginia, where anti-miscegenation laws are still in effect. The marry out of state, but are arrested at home. The legal battle to have their marriage recognised takes them to the highest court in the United States…

Writer-director Jeff Nichols has created a heartfelt and expansive film with Loving. The film takes its time to paint the couple and their story. It is not really a story of the court battles, rather it is a film about a couple in love and the personal struggle that they face. The story is pivotal to civil liberties and equality, and their case was a landmark one. Yet the emphasis remains on what it means to the couple.

Loving is a love story. The film begins by depicting Richard and Mildred as a couple, existing in a mixed community. Nichols’ continues in a similar style to his pervious pictures; a significant period of time passes before the first line of dialogue is spoken. Nichols’ shows his characters’ feelings through expressions and actions. These work very effectively.

The film is leaden on occasion; a weight can be felt but it is not always needed. Michael Shannon’s appearance perks up a stagnant moment, elsewhere the pacing functions adequately to allow viewers to absorb. Those brought up in a town or city may wryly smile at Mildred’s insistence on a country upbringing for her children. The Virginia scenes are beautifully shot.

Ruth Negga delivers a strong performance as Mildred. The actress is very believable in this role. She is matched in this respect by Joel Edgerton’s Richard. A man of few words, both Negga and Edgerton convey much of their relationship through expression. Loving tells an important story, made more pertinent by current affairs. Nichols continues his trend for producing beautifully-shot, Southern-set, ponderous films.