There’s no doubt that in LOVING’s hands is a powerful tale. Joel Nichols tells the story of Richard (Edgerton) and Mildred (Negga) Loving who were the interracial couple at the center of a groundbreaking U.S. Supreme Court case. Up until 1967, interracial marriage was illegal. The parallels between this and the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage are clear, but that’s not the story that writer and director Jeff Nichols really wants to tell. He puts all the legalities in the passenger seat and puts the Lovings behind the wheel.
In 1967 Virginia, the two lovebirds live in a community that’s very rarely seen, or even known about, in cinema. It’s predominantly African-American community with Richard being the only outlier. They welcome Richard though, treating him like one of their own, never batting an eye at his relationship with Mildred or his color. It’s a lot different though in the company of white people when the Lovings have to venture into the city.
After establishing the rural community, LOVING picks up when Mildred becomes pregnant and she and Richard quickly travel to Washington D.C. to elope. Once outside D.C., they’re greeted by racism, judging eyes and a legal system that tries to tear them apart and tear up their marriage license. That’s where some lawyers, looking to be on the right side of the history, step-in.
Even when the Lovings lawyers finally arrive, LOVING doesn’t really turn the focus of the story. This is still a movie very much about the Lovings. They seem to act like they don’t even want to be a part of the turning point in history, but simply want to live out the rest of their lives in obscurity. It’s interesting because we expect the couple to be champions of desegregation and a pinnacle of the power of love, but that doesn’t interest them.
Richard and Mildred are interesting character studies and LOVING sometimes wastes a lot of its precious time not focusing on them. The movie literally picks up late into their relationship without ever showing us how they met or even how they dated. We get a little backstory here and there, but how Richard and Mildred came to be would have been way more interesting than their disinterest in trying to sway the legal system down the righteous path.
That’s my only complaint though in another wise fantastic movie. Negga deservedly was nominated for an Oscar, but everyone else is fantastic. Edgerton, who might want to consider more Oscar laced movies, plays the simple Southern role well, flashing emotions through his character’s eyes and sullen silences. Michael Shannon also pops up, reminding all of us that this guy needs a gold statuette by now. And I’m sincerely shocked that Nick Kroll could hang up his comedic chops for a performance that made me forget he tells juvenile jokes for a living.
As a straight, white man who’s never had to deal with adversity in society, I can’t personally relate to the story in LOVING, but I understand its message and why it’s important to keep tales like this at the forefront of our minds. Nichols did a fantastic job of putting viewers like me in the shoes of someone else. In trying times, it’s not only important to learn about the past, but also see the world through the persecuted eyes of others.
BLU RAY REVIEW
Video: (1080p HD Widescreen 2:39:1) The movie feels like a step back in time, thanks to Nichols keen eye and attention details, but also because of the crystal clear picture on this blu-ray.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) There are no noticeable problems as the audio is mixed well and flows evenly from one scene to another.
Making LOVING (4:28): This short feature breezes through the production, cast, and how the crew pulled inspiration from a documentary about the Lovings. A lot of compliments are paid to writer and director, Jeff Nichols.
A LOVING Ensemble (4:07): Nichols goes in-depth on his selection process behind the cast. It’s interesting how a cast member can capture magic through an audition or how it comes down to whom you know in the business.
Loving V. Virginia (4:26): This is a very simplified glimpse back at the true story that inspired the movie. It picks apart the unfair laws of the time and how it relates to present day struggles.
Virginia: A LOVING Backdrop (3:09): The cast and crew talk about their admiration for the shooting location and the flavor it added to the story. As a Midwesterner, I appreciate any feature talking about small town America. But a lot of that goes out the window when you get the distinct impression this could be an advertisement to other production studios, luring them to the state to reap their tax benefits.
Feature Commentary with Director Jeff Nichols: Nichols is incredibly thorough. All the compliments and praise he received throughout other features are well-deserved. His watchful eye and hand is in nearly every facet of this movie. He has something to say about everything. That being said, his tone and vocal levels are like that of a dad reading a book at night to his children so they’ll fall asleep. So if you do listen to this, don’t be tired.