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.

Film Review: Take Shelter

Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter is an engrossing drama that boasts a superlative performance by Michael Shannon.

Husband and father Curtis is haunted by a series of dreams which foretell an apocalypse. As these visions become more intense, he begins to question why they are plaguing him. At the same time as worrying about his mental health, Curtis begins to reinforce the family’s storm shelter…

Directed with assurance by Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter is a well crafted movie. The film slowly builds tension in an incredibly effective manner. The climax of the film is wrought with apprehension, and utterly captivating as a result. Take Shelter effectively plays on the tension between reality and unreality. The audience is often given Curtis’ viewpoint and shares his confusion over the source of his visions. Nevertheless, the concern of his family and friends is equally understandable.

Nichols’ film deal with mental health issues in a convincing and tactful manner. Part of the reason that Take Shelter will engage with audiences is the struggle of the protagonist. Most will be able to empathise with Curtis because of his helplessness in struggling with a perceived mental illness, and being unable to combat it alone. Take Shelter is not the tale of a delusional man, but one of someone who recognises their limitations and attempts to return to normality.

The cinematography and editing are at times wonderful. Michael Shannon delivers a wholly convincing and powerful performance as Curtis. Solid support is provided by ever reliable Jessica Chastain as wife Samantha.

Take Shelter is a fantastic second feature from Nichols. The film excels in engaging viewers throughout, and keeping them in the dark for almost the entire duration.

Take Shelter was screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011.