The theme of racism has been showcased in numerous films this awards season; now, following the glossy, feel-good Hidden Figures and the dialogue-driven theatrical Fences, comes Loving.
Different in approach, Loving is a restrained and quiet film portraying its characters as real people; resisting the urge to over-dramatise or hype the historical significance of this true story.
At its heart is interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving, who married in the 1950s and then spent almost a decade fighting for the right to live together in their home state of Virginia. Their civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia, went all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1967 reaffirmed the very foundation of the right to marry.
This is far from a courtroom procedural; rather, it's an intimate family drama. Writer-director Jeff Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter) focuses on the Lovings, and the effect their situation has on their relationship and lives. Aussie Joel Edgerton is impressive as the stoic, hardworking Richard, who just wants his wife to be happy, but it's Best Actress Oscar nominee Ruth Negga who really shines as Mildred. Her performance is nuanced, convincing and warm, and a joy to watch.
It's Mildred who takes the initiative to sort out their dilemma, and while she isn't interested in the limelight understands they need to tell their story to the press. There's a delightful scene when the normally guarded Richard and Mildred relax in front of a Life photographer (played by regular Nichols' collaborator Michael Shannon) sent to capture their story in pictures. It's a reminder that this is a couple who don't want to bother anyone; they just want to live a simple life in their home state near their extended family.
In keeping it understated, and nailing the casting, which includes New Zealander Marton Csokas as a not-very-nice Virginia policeman, Nichols has created a powerful, intelligent and moving film. It may not have the pace and bluster of other period pieces exploring African American experiences, but it puts a human face on racial intolerance and does so with plenty of heart.
Cast: Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton
Director: Jeff Nichols
Running Time: 123 mins
Rating: PG (Coarse language)
Verdict: A gentle and inspiring love story.