Love is one of the most powerful and amazing forces in the world, so it always astounds me that others choose to impart their religious, racial, and hateful beliefs on whom others choose to love. Whether it is gay, straight, bi, queer, interracial or what have you, love is love, and it’s something we could use a little more of in this shitty year we are having.
In his second film of 2016, Jeff Nichols (Midnight Special) goes from cryptic science-fiction to the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple who fought to end the ban on interracial marriage in Virginia in the late 50s and early 60s. Yes, even 50 years ago interracial marriage was actually considered illegal and in some cases called for imprisonment or banishment.
With Loving, Nichols crafts a quiet and poignantly devastating film that skirts away from all the bombast of a legal drama (which this more or less is) and entirely skips over several courtroom scenes, even the historic Supreme Court trial, so we can focus purely on the Lovings.
Played with a heartbreakingly silent Joel Edgerton and a haunting, graceful Ruth Negga, the Lovings are, well, relationship goals. The two start a life together, raise kids, and fall more in love. There isn’t wild passion or big declarative statements of love, just simple, heartfelt looks and kisses. The chemistry is apparent, Edgerton and Negga mesh beautifully. Edgerton, however, is less hopeful and more paranoid than Negga who silently perseveres and remains optimistic against all odds, yet he loves his wife deeply, even if he isn’t proclaiming his love for her at every second.
Like all forbidden love stories, Loving brings that all-too-familiar fear of discovery but it never escalates to thriller intensity. No, Nichols keeps things below the radar, and it really helps the relationship between Richard and Mildred blossom. After Mildred gets pregnant, Richard takes her to D.C. to get married, and upon their return they get arrested and imprisoned, only to be released and kept from more time if they’re more or less exiled from their county, family, and friends.
It’s painful at times to see the bigotry involved because we know it still exists in our country, but Nichols handles it like it is: sometimes it is silent, we don’t know what people are thinking, and after this recent election that is only further substantiated. Racism is as alive as it was during the Lovings time, which makes this film all the more important for our times. While it probably won’t win any awards, Loving is important to see: not only because it parallels our current climate, but because its a reminder that love really is love, and nobody should tell you who you can or cannot be with. Whether it is because of the color of your skin, or because some book written 2,000 years ago said so, love, just like Loving, wins.