Loving: Love In Action
Jeff Nichols’ new movie, Loving, about the epic courage of an interracial couple, asks us to believe in the enduring power of love in marriage in the face of hostility, says Rachel Mannix.
Set in early 1960s America, Loving is based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga) from Virginia who were arrested and banished from their home state because of their illegal interracial marriage.
Forced to move away to inner city Washington D.C, the Lovings wrote to the attorney general who referred their case to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Lawyers picked up the case because of its potential to alter constitutional law and impact national treatment of interracial marriage. The significance in the context of the contemporary struggle for race equality is huge, but the gravity of this change is not the film’s central focus.Reminders of Martin Luther King’s activism come to you like flashes of a city through the trees as your train rushes past.
Loving By Name, Loving By Nature
What director Jeff Nichols captures so beautifully is the vitality of the Lovings’ story. You see wisps of baby hair along the helix of an ear and the rise and fall of every breath.
You are absorbed into dappled summer sunlight and the effect is unexpected; rather than being smacked with the harsh reality of a Shane Meadows drama (This is England, 2006) you are caught between the vibrancy and delightful stillness of life’s little moments.
An even greater triumph, in a society that equates impulse with intimacy, is that there are no sex scenes in the film. Instead there is a softness and a slowness which draws you into the Lovings’ relationship.
In a “show don’t tell” approach, Nichols portrays the gentle truthfulness of what it means to fall in love. Due to the cinematic hyper-sensitivity, the shared glances between the couple are felt more deeply and transcend the minimal dialogue.
In some films, this can make you feel like an uninvited observer, but in Loving you melt into these exchanges. Every pain is felt more acutely but also every joy.
Credit for this is due to Edgerton and Negga’s performances. They create believable individual roles, which heightens their chemistry as a couple.
Far from appearing cold, there is a sense of security in their innocence and simplicity of life. Ultimately, everything is underpinned by love. When asked by his lawyer if he has any words for the court, Richard presents no grand rhetoric or self-pitying petition. He simply replies: “Tell them, I love my wife”.