DIR/WRI: Jeff Nichols • PRO: Ged Doherty, Colin Firth, Nancy Buirski, Sarah Green, Marc Turtletaub, Peter Saraf • DOP: Adam Stone • ED: Julie Monroe • DES: Chad Keith • MUS: David Wingo • CAST: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Nick Kroll, Jon Bass, Michael Shannon, Marton Csokas
Loving tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), an interracial couple in 1950’s America. Knowing their relationship violates their county’s anti-miscegenation laws, the couple travels to Washington D.C. in order to be legally married. Upon returning to their home in Virginia they are arrested and sentenced to one year in prison. The sentence is suspended following their agreement to leave the state and not return for 25 years. Frustrated with the prospect of raising their children in the hustle and bustle of the city, far away from the freedom of the countryside, Mildred seeks out legal help in order to rectify the situation. Lawyer Bernard S. Cohen (Nick Kroll) comes to their aid, and, with the help of civil rights attorney Philip J Hirschkop (Jon Bass), sets out on a case that not only stands to overturn the ruling against the Lovings, but to change the entire American constitution.
Though the historical weight of Loving is poignant and inarguably important, the actual onscreen recreation is a little underwhelming. The performances from Edgerton and Negga are indeed notable, but at times the chemistry between the pair is off; they seem a little hesitant, a little awkward with each other. The overall characterisation of the couple’s reaction to their situation also lacks a certain passion. Though frustration is at times palpable, there is a lack of urgency, a lack of undivided investment in the struggle they agree to undertake by seeking legal proceedings.
Perhaps this lack of explicit passion is an appeal to empathy by presenting the characters as politely conservative, universally relatable. In this way, the film is in danger of stumbling into the category of post-racial cinema, where racism is framed largely as a problem of the past, letting the audience know that “things aren’t as bad as they used to be”. By engaging in this dialogue, the reception of historically framed successes over racism can be damped by actions of contemporary society which remind us that racism itself is definitely not over. Having noted this, though, it is well to recognise that every small triumph is important, and Loving, though lacking active passion, documents a victory worth celebrating.
Sadhbh Ní Bhroin
12A (See IFCO for details)
Loving is released 3rd February 2017