By Alexa Day
About 18 months ago, I received news of Jeff Nichols’s film, Loving, with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. I did promise to give the movie a fair chance, but I could not imagine that any film would do justice to the real Richard and Mildred Loving, two people who simply belonged together.
I saw Loving this past weekend. It is magnetic.
From the very beginning, Nichols draws us into a world that never gets much larger than the two people at the heart of the story. The energy that flows between Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, who play the Lovings, is palpable but very gentle, a deep-running but quiet passion. As we follow them to Washington, D.C. and then back to Virginia, with three children in tow, the only thing any of us knows for certain is that these two people belong to each other. They nourish each other, and they grow into and through each other, and they are absolutely bound to each other. They are indivisible.
Given the groundbreaking nature of the Loving decision, I imagine that there’s always a temptation to turn this story into something large and sensational. It would be easy to play to the audience with raised voices and racial slurs and the protracted study of racial inequality in America in the 1960s. Nichols resists this temptation, and the film shines because of his restraint.
The beauty of the Virginia countryside fills the screen with lush color. The changing seasons come to life, softly reminding the viewer of just how long it took for the case to rise from Caroline County to the Supreme Court. Don’t even start me talking about the cars. Every detail is beautifully rendered, but all of that is just a backdrop for Richard and Mildred. They’re a constant in a world that slides around them. It is impossible to look away from them.
The movie never raises the question of whether the Lovings would stay together despite the opposition to their marriage. The film is built on one premise, the unbreakable certainty that neither would abandon the union. A different question arises from that foundation. We never wonder if the Lovings will stay together … but before long, we doubt society’s power to challenge them.
There is tremendous comfort to be found in the knowledge that two people would survive and thrive, despite opposition, simply by refusing to let go of each other. At one point, Mildred tells a reporter that she’s aware of the conflict she faces, but that she also knows that she and her husband have many, many allies. No matter what happens, the two of them are determined to live their lives on their terms, surrounded by family and friends.
That sort of confidence is the source of real, lasting change.
And follow Lady Smut.