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Laemmle Spotlight: Loving

December 1, 2016

Laemmle Spotlight: Loving
by Adam Soll

Loving, directed by Jeff Nichols. PG-13, 123 minutes.

Jeff Nichols’ film Loving tells a true story that unfortunately escapes much of the American population, especially those who have never studied constitutional law. In 1958, Richard Loving, a white man, married his longtime friend Mildred Jeter, a black woman. They lived in Virginia, but due to state laws that prohibited interracial marriage, they got married in Washington D.C. where no such law existed. Upon returning home, they were harassed and arrested by the local authorities, who called for their banishment from Virginia even though they had a valid marriage license from Washington. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Richard and Mildred Loving filed suit against the state of Virginia and brought their case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. In 1967, the court ruled in favor of the Lovings, thus forbidding all race-based restrictions on marriage.

Jeff Nichols’ talents as a director are on display throughout the entire film. His long, sweeping shots of the Virginia countryside complement skillfully edited montages of the Lovings raising their family. Despite the film’s apparent visual beauty, however, Nichols’ writing proves to be the cornerstone of the film. Even in the film’s darkest and most tragic moments, Nichols maintains a sense of hope and strength, never letting the tone drift away from the underlying messages of perseverance and justice.

Both of the film’s leads have deservedly earned major awards consideration, as Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga give the best performances of their careers. Edgerton is an Australian actor best known for starring in action and thriller films, and he perfectly injects a humble sense of confidence into Richard’s southern drawl. Negga is soon to be a household name, as her understated yet powerful performance matches Edgerton’s beat for beat. Frequent Nichols collaborator Michael Shannon and comedian Nick Kroll round out the excellent supporting cast.

Jeff Nichols is one of those rare filmmakers whose works are relatable and accessible for mass audiences, while also complex and detailed enough for film buffs. The questions on social equity that he raises are as relevant now as ever, and the fact that Nichols makes this difficult history lesson so tender and subtle is truly a feat.


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