I must have done something good last year because this year the movie Santa seems to have put me on the good list. How else could I explain getting not only one but two movies from one of my favorite writer and directors: Jeff Nichols. It was only a few months ago that his southern fried Spielberg film Midnight Special dazzled me in theaters and now he has reteamed with one of his leads in that film, Joel Edgerton, for Loving, a true story drama. If anything, this new film will further the conversation on Edgerton’s amazing acting ability and introduce his co-lead, Ruth Negga, to an audience that hasn’t seen her work on television shows like Preacher yet.
Loving is the true events around an interracial couple, Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter, living in Virginia in the 1950s. Making no secret of their relationship, Richard and his mother live with the rest of Mildred’s family, with him working his days building houses and his nights spent with her brothers, building and racing cars. It’s only when Richard and Mildred go to Washington, D.C. to get married after she reveals that she’s pregnant, that things get thrown into chaos. As soon as the couple comes home from their wedding service, the police promptly arrest the newlyweds and, in the legal turmoil to follow, are told that they can’t be together in the state of Virginia for twenty-five years. This starts a court battle that Mildred takes some pride in but may be a bit too big and high profile for Richard to deal with.
As is the case with all of Jeff Nichols films, Loving is a gorgeous piece of cinema, one that is set up with a touching opening of Mildred looking longingly at Richard and saying “I’m pregnant.” Edgerton’s Richard gives a slight smile and after a moment says “Good.” This is the main reason that I love the relationship between the actors and the man behind the camera because we get these eye-catching one shots where Nichols lets the subject breathe and swell with the emotion underneath. This gives both of our main characters a deep reality and a feel for the soul they are emoting. There’s never a moment where we doubt the love between these two individuals who don’t want this huge social and civil rights fight. All they want is to be left alone to spend their lives together.
Loving is a movie that will see some Oscar clout but I really hope it’s not for the wrong reasons, like the political statement of the oppression of interracial marriages. I would argue for the acting, directing and cinematography of this film being worthy before I would ever try to suggest it as an “issues” movie. Jeff Nichols continues his reach into different genres and tones to expand the scope of what kind of filmmaker he is and I think he makes another memorable film with this, although a lesser film than this year’s previous effort. Loving is a love story against the odds that is more of a showcase of two stars and a filmmaker, a fitting movie for a nice date night. 4/5