The Watchers

The Watchers

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Review: Loving (UK Cert 12A)

It's a surprising (and sobering) fact that interracial marriage has only been legal in the US for fifty years, following the Supreme Court's 1967 ruling in the case of Loving v Virginia, brought by an interracial couple- Richard and Mildred Loving- against their home state. Now, the story of the Lovings' marriage and their legal fight have been turned into a film, directed by Jeff Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter, Midnight Special).

Despite dealing with heavy themes and a very emotive subject, the film is gentle, thoughtful, restrained. There's barely a raised voice throughout. 

The lion's share of the praise for the film has come for the dignified performance of Ruth Negga as Mildred, whose lead performance gained the film's only Oscar nomination. There are times when she's fragile and times when she's forthright. There are no showy look-at-me histrionics, it's a very low-key and natural performance which is absolutely magnetic. Negga has a very expressive face and there are times when she doesn't say a word but you can see the emotions play across her face. This is a star-making role for an incredibly gifted actress. 

It is a shame that Joel Edgerton hasn't been praised more but his performance as Richard is just as strong as Negga's. Richard is a man of few words, a laconic, taciturn presence, but utterly devoted to his wife and children. In one of the most powerful moments, when the ACLU lawyer asks Richard if he has anything he wants the lawyer to tell the court, the response is simple: 'tell them I love my wife'.

As you may not be surprised to learn, because the focus is so much on the main couple, the other characters are not fleshed out as much. However, there's good support from Marton Csokas as the utterly deplorable police chief who arrests Richard and Mildred, Bill Camp as a sympathetic small-town lawyer who attempts to help them, and frequent Nicholls collaborator Michael Shannon in a nice cameo as Life Magazine photographer Grey Villet who helped to bring the Lovings' case to the public eye.

The film plays out against the civil rights marches and protests of the 1960s and the period detail, from the music to the cars, is spot-on and really helps to evoke the age. It's a quiet, well-made biopic about an important piece of American history.

Rating: 4 out of 5


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