Monday, November 28, 2016

Movie Review: "Loving" (2016)

Director: Jeff Nichols
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 1 minute
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An interracial married couple living in Virginia are arrested under anti-miscegenation laws. The two are forced to leave the state for 25 years or face jail time. After writing to Robert Kennedy, the couple eventually are contacted by the ACLU, who fights for their cause and eventually takes the case all the way to the Supreme Court. 

"Loving" is written and directed by Jeff Nichols, who has gained notoriety with his films "Mud" and "Midnight Special." It tells the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, played by the utterly fantastic Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. They were a couple living in Virginia who were arrested several times after getting married in Washington DC for having the audacity to be together and for trying to live their lives as they were close to where their families resided. Though this movie is ultimately about an important landmark case in the civil rights movement, Nichols manages to make it a very human story, focusing on Mildred and Richard first over any back and forth legal fights. Where some directors may have been tempted to show shocking displays of overt racism in the 1950's-1960's south and/or dramatic grandstanding in a sympathetic courtroom drama, Nichols take the opposite, more refreshing route, staying glued to this couple who never wanted to be in the spotlight, but were thrust into it in order to protect their rights to love one another and to raise their family they way they wanted where they wanted. The Lovings, their lives, and their desire to simply be together no matter what is the most important thing here. It is small enough and dramatic enough without overdoing it, and we appreciate the choices Nichols has made to tell such a painful, heartbreaking and true narrative in a moving, emotional, and simplistic way. It helps that he is working with two powerhouse actors in Edgerton and Negga, who not only have subdued passion with one another, but also wildly excel in their understated performances. We would not be surprised or upset if either of them get nominated for awards going forward, and they definitely deserve all of the positive recognition coming their way.

Sometimes, it is important to remember that these big civil rights movements aren't about the politics, but about the people behind them. It is also a reminder that racism isn't always overt, and that not all racists wear white robes and burn crosses. There are also many parallels that can be drawn between parts of this film and issues affecting the country today, ones we never thought we'd need to discuss in 2016. The arguments against the Lovings getting married are very similar to the arguments we hear against similar issues today, often involving God's will, what is deemed natural or unnatural, or how it will impact the children moving forward. It's very poetic that the case that fought for racial marriage equality was 'Loving vs. The State of Virginia.'

If there is one real critique we have of "Loving," it's the same one we have had for all of Nichols' films. His pacing is always a bit slow and does feel a touch too long, though we're starting to realize low and slow may be his calling. Here, it definitely feels intentional in order to help the audience understand just how long the process actually was for Richard and Mildred. In the end, "Loving" made me cry from start to finish, and made BigJ tear up a couple of times as well. Jeff Nichols was the perfect choice to direct this movie, and Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga are brilliant and deeply moving in their respective roles. This is a very touching, very poignant, very important story about love and the freedom to love whoever you want wherever you want.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 90%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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