It’s very irritating that here, in Australia, we get this kind of film so long after everybody else. There’s a trade-off in the fact that we generally get big-budget blockbusters anywhere between twenty-four and seventy-two hours before the States, but it’s still frustrating that Loving was released in November, and here we are, in March, only just getting it now. I suppose it was worth the wait.
Loving tells the true story of Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial couple living in 1958 Virginia. Forbidden by law to marry, the pair elope to Washington before returning home to raise a family. Local law enforcement promptly arrests the newlyweds, and they’re exiled from the state for twenty-five years. We stay with the Lovings from this point through to the historical Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia in 1967.
The film begins with Mildred revealing her pregnancy. This was an interesting decision which really put the weight of the film on Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. We don’t see them meet, we don’t see them fall in love, and so we have to be convinced of their feelings for each other after they’ve already married. They’re both phenomenal performers (Negga certainly earned her Best Actress nomination, and, if possible, I was even more impressed with Edgerton), so this absolutely happens… eventually. For the first portion of the film it’s a little hard to feel the characters’ love for each other. Both performances are so realistic and subdued that, as an audience member who was shamefully ignorant of the events upon which the film was based, I honestly didn’t know if one of them was going to cut and run. We have to take them at their word that they love each other. Again, as soon as the film found its feet, this changed dramatically and you find yourself connecting with the characters more than you expected.
The supporting performances are also great. Their family and friends, the pair of lawyers (Nick Kroll and Jon Bass) who represent them, the legal system who hamper the protagonists. Edgerton was featured in writer/director Jeff Nichols’ previous film, Midnight Special, and his fellow cast member Michael Shannon returns for one touching scene with the Lovings.
It’s also very well-made technically. I don’t remember any of the score, but I remember that I liked it. Like the performances, it was subdued, adding to the film without being too loud or obtrusive. The cinematography was wonderful, as was the lighting and general production design. This is a simple story of two characters. It didn’t need to be made so well, and yet it’s so much better for it.
This kind of biographical film is one that I appreciate. I’m grateful to have watched it, because until I did, I didn’t know anything about the events contained within. Too often, biopics feature an event that’s only just happened, giving it a cash-grabby kind of feel. It’s been fifty years since Loving v. Virginia, and fifty-nine since Mildred and Richard were married. Perhaps it’s because of the decades since it happened, perhaps it’s because I live on the other side of the world, or perhaps I simply need to care more about important events in recent history, but I’d never heard of the case nor it’s plaintiffs. It’s important that this kind of case is remembered, especially now, when very similar fights are still being fought.
One thing that was a little jarring was Marton Csokas’ sudden disappearance from the film after seemingly serving as its primary antagonist for much of it. I suppose that’s what happened in reality, but I feel like we should’ve been some kind of closure on that front. I should also mention that the drop in technical quality when the film employs archive footage/audio is both noticeable and annoying. You’re hiring actors to play every other part, why do we need to hear the original tapes?