The story of Richard and Mildred Loving is vital to American history yet it’s gone largely unnoticed by society. Their court case, Loving v. Virginia, made it unconstitutional for states to have laws prohibiting interracial marriage. While the court case itself could be its own film, director Jeff Nichols decides to focus on the relationship between husband and wife, giving their story a much more personal touch with universal appeal.
RIchard Loving (Joel Edgerton) is deeply in love with Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga) and wants to marry her and build her a house in the vast fields of their home state of Virginia. The only problem is that Richard is white and Mildred is black, and Virginia does not recognize interracial marriage. Regardless, they decide to get married in DC and return home to live their life peacefully together. That peace is short lived when they are arrested, thrown in jail, and given the choice to either leave the state for no less than 25 years or face a five year prison sentence. They move to DC but the city is just not the same as the countryside so they eventually decide to return, only they have the full support of the ACLU and their attorneys behind them.
Loving puts the focus primarily on RIchard’s and Mildred’s relationship and no one portrays that better than Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. They both are people of few words, but words are not necessary when their actions speak much louder. The love they show each other looks and feels absolutely genuine as Nichols manages to capture those tiny, intimate details that define our relationships. Loving speaks loudest in its quietest moments.
Despite the struggles the two face, their love for each other never falters. They’re not trying to make a statement with their lawsuit or garner any kind of fame. They simply want to live their lives with each other, something the state of Virginia is preventing. The film covers the lawsuit, but surprisingly doesn’t make as big a deal out of it, especially given how big an impact it had on the course of history. Whereas many films would expand and explore the larger picture, Loving opts to stay small and focus on the Lovings at all times.
There are many shocking and disturbing moments in Loving, one of which is the fact that this all occurred not that long ago between 1958 and 1967. The racial inequality shown to Richard and Mildred is simply appalling, yet their love is always a shining beacon of hope. Loving ultimately is a heartwarming story of how love triumphs over hate. It’s a timely and fitting message I think we all need to hear at the moment.