Where 'Loving' Can Take Us....
I am careful about being too political as I write these film reviews. There is enough ‘opinion’ in my opinions as it is, without injecting politics into the process. But it would be disingenuous of me to ignore the fact that the outcome of the recent election has put the issue of race, and racial conflict, squarely on the front burner of our nation’s discussions. With this in mind, I must suggest that you go out and see ‘Loving’ immediately; and in doing so, be reminded of the many hard fought struggles that our fellow citizens have endured over the past century or more to simply acknowledge their humanity. Furthermore, be reminded that we are at a tipping point in which we can easily backslide to a place where that humanity is determined by race or lineage.
‘Loving’ is the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a bi-racial couple who were convicted of the crime of being married in Virginia 1958 (yes, that is 1958, NOT 1858). After many years of being forced to live separately or to abandon their families and move to another state, the Lovings became the plaintiffs in a landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court which struck down all laws prohibiting interracial marriage across the United States.
The film was written and directed by Jeff Nichols, who has developed a reputation for making ‘quiet’ films which explore the inner spaces of his characters and stories. His most recent film, ‘Mud’ was a little seen film, but featured a tour-de-force performance by Matthew McConaughey. In ‘Loving’, Nichols has the perfect story, and the perfect actors, to lead us through the emotions and the trauma of the Lovings as they are forced from their home, dragged through the courts, and confronted with the humiliation of being told that they are ‘not allowed’ to love each other and raise a family.
As Mildred Loving, Ruth Negga is the steel hand in a velvet glove. A woman in the 50s -- particularly a black woman -- did not have much standing, especially in a state such as Virginia. But Negga consistently demonstrates the quiet resolve and strength of character that refuses to be bowed by society and even her own family (who question her decision to marry a white man in the first place). Like Rosa Parks and others before and after her, Mildred exhibits a dignity that simply cannot be taken from her, regardless of the circumstances. And she does all of this while at the same time being a loving and supportive wife and mother. Negga is truly outstanding in this role, saying more with her eyes than most actresses can ever say in an extended monologue.
If Mildred is ‘quiet’, Richard is virtually mute. But in the role of Richard, Joel Edgerton exhibits a range of emotions from bewilderment at why society will simply not let him marry and live with the woman he loves; to rage at that system; to joy in the simple activities of sharing time with family and friends. Richard is a man of his generation: a stalwart everyman who goes to work every day to provide for his family; a man who cannot understand why he has been dragged into this situation; and who loves his wife so much that he will risk jail, exile and approbation without protest – and certainly without many words. When asked if he wants to address the Supreme Court when the case comes before them, Richard declines and tells his lawyers: “ just tell the judges that I love my wife”. Enough said. A perfect match for Negga, Edgerton embodies the definition of the ‘quiet man’. He never uses words when simple actions will suffice.
‘Loving’ is a film that requires patience and rewards attention. But as my fiancé said following the film, ‘it is a slow film that never felt slow’. My interpretation of that statement is that the film is so completely engaging and rewarding; so beautiful is its focus on the real feelings of real people; and so important to the issues of that time AND this time, that the pace allows the viewer to absorb the significance of the film. And that is, in my opinion, the definition of a perfect film.
For those of you who live in larger cities and have the opportunity, I must also STRONGLY recommend another film now in theaters. ‘The Eagle Huntress’ was my favorite film of the Telluride Film Festival. It is a soaring ode to the bond of father and daughter; and the strength of women to do anything they choose, regardless of what society tells them. ‘The Eagle Huntress’ is an amazing documentary that never feels like it. Rather it is more of an adventure story set on the steppes of Mongolia where a loving father confronts generations of tribal tradition by teaching his daughter the skills of hunting with eagles that are only to be passed from father to son. The cinematography is truly amazing; and the young girl, Aisholpan, is one of the most engaging characters you will ever find in a film. You can see my brief review of the film at https://dailyuv.com/organizations/519-movie-musings/859803. GO SEE THIS FILM!!