Mildred and Richard Loving didn't ask for any extra attention. They just wanted to be married and live a happy life like anyone else. It was what they thought was their God given right in this world. Find someone you love, ask them to spend the rest of their life with you, and try to survive. For this interracial couple in Virginia in the racially contested times, it was anything but a given.
Jeff Nichols new film, Loving, is a timely film worth seeing.
Nichols is a gifted writer/director whose best paint brush as a filmmaker is restraint and his best writing tool is straight forward storytelling. He has no room for nonsense or melodrama. Every bit of powerful drama is earned. His films are a testament to family and tales that make you feel something.
He tackled existential crisis in Take Shelter. He gave Matthew McConaughey the role of a lifetime in Mud. He tackled the idea of aliens and government control in Midnight Special.
Here, he brings to light the world altering case of Loving vs. Virginia and it's a classic Nichols joint. A performance driven simplistic tale about love and how the easiest of pursuits can sometimes involve the most complicated of journeys.
Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga are extraordinary as the Lovings. They don't overact or wish to chew scenery. It's all impulse driven work and two drops of restraint are used for every one push of emotion. If there isn't a need for dialogue, Nichols lets the actors expressions and body movements do the trick.
In a tale this powerful, it would have been easy to pick up a baseball and swing as hard you could for the fences. Instead, the director and actors just let the story instruct their work and it keeps them from manipulating the audience.
The setting and location work like a supporting actor, as they often do in Nichols films. Remember how the Arkansas river played such a vital and trusted role in Mud? The cornfields and long winding roads are a part of this film's DNA. It's not just a background image. It's a living breathing thing that supports the screenplay. David Wingo, a Nichols favorite, works a perfect blend of music that highlights the scenes without overpowering them.
This is a breakout performance for Edgerton. He's been great before (Warrior, Zero Dark Thirty) but this is a challenging role for any thespian. Edgerton disguises his Australian accent and climbs into the role of this soft spoken yet compassionate Southern man. The way Edgerton gives off emotion through his facial expressions is something you can't teach. It's reminiscent of Heath Ledger's work in Brokeback Mountain. An Aussie going full cowboy.
Negga's work is just as strong, as he instills Mildred with a strength that speaks volumes long after you leave the theater. She could have overplayed a few moments, but she lets her piercing eyes do the heavy lifting. Her scenes with Edgerton are heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time.
This film will make you proud to be in love. Whether that is with someone or life itself, Loving teaches you how the strong bond of love can break down any wall of hardship in life. It's a film for our times, and it's not a showy exploration nor does it preach to the viewer. It simply tells you about a couple who wanted to live happily ever after and had to fight or the privilege.
In this world, it's hard enough to find the right person to sail off into the sunset with. It can take years or decades. Jeff Nichols' passionate tale reminds you that a long time ago, it wasn't as easy to sustain that love once you found it.
Loving is a powerful timely tale that is worth your time and money.