Loving (2016)

(On Cable TV, July 2017) I’m not the most enthusiastic viewer of social-issue dramas, but there is something quietly fascinating in how Loving portrays the story of how laws against interracial marriages were struck down in the 1960s. For, as amazing as it can sound, there were laws on the book in several southern states that forbid interracial couples. The Lovings, whose story is told here, were forced to pick up everything and leave the state for twenty-five years or spend a year in jail. Writer/Director Jeff Nichols takes up their story with his typical attention to details, and the result is interesting largely because the Lovings did not see themselves as civil rights activists, just two people in love with each other. This is particularly the case for the husband, played with quiet determination by Joel Edgerton, who may not have been particularly intelligent or outspoken, but let his actions speak for themselves. Ruth Negga also turns in an exceptional performance as the wife. The script spends a lot of time on the Lovings and very little on courtroom machinations—in keeping with the heroes of the story, which were far more concerned about living their lives than being a symbol. The resulting movie is heartfelt without being overbearing, a combination that makes it more effective than other similar social-issues film. For Nichols, Loving is a return to formal drama after three genre films and it shows that he can do just as well without any genre elements (which shouldn’t be an issue, given that the strengths of his genre pictures were in their dramatic elements).

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