Never a last name was best fitted than the one of Richard and Mildred Loving, and they did love each other, their children and their home, Virginia, but “Virginia did not love them back.”
“Loving” is a beautiful and intense film by Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud) that tells the story of Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga), and their “fight” against Virginia’s law that used to forbid interracial marriage. After dating for a while Mildred tells Richard that she’s pregnant, it’s 1958, but since interracial marriage is not allowed in the State of Virginia, they go and get married in Washington.
But they don’t get their “happily ever after”: policemen burst into their home in the middle of the night and arrest them. Their sentence?
They are allow to raise their family but not in Virginia and they are not to set foot again into their homeland. So the couple moves to Washington, a place that never feels like home.
After years of this “exile” Mildred decides to take her faith in her hands and writes to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy who in turn puts her in contact with the American Civil Liberties Union and with lawyer Bernie Cohen played by Nick Kroll; and right there the journey to a dreamed return begins, a journey that would also change the U.S. Constitution.
Their case (which became a civil-rights landmark) was brought to the Supreme Court (Loving v. Virginia), but what the director highlights is the private fight, struggle, hope and life of the Lovings; Richard’s quietness and Mildred’s strength, sometimes hidden by an initial shyness. “Human qualities such as goodness and decency are often hard to make palpable or even interesting, but Ruth Negga makes all these fleeting and elusive qualities exquisitely, luminously visible again. In a movie with such a title, it is essential that we believe in their love, and we absolutely do” (John Patterson for The Guardian).
The trial stays on the background, we don’t see it, “they didn’t go, so we don’t go,” said Nichols, when then lawyer asked the couple if they had something in particular for him to say, Richard said: “Just tell the judge I love my wife“, that was it, normal people, who wanted to live peacefully in their home. The director leads us inside the life of Ruth, Richard and their 3 children, and speaking of “life”, at the time LIFE Magazine sent to the family’s house photographer Grey Villet (Michael Shannon) to capture those days, their intimate gestures, their everyday life.
Both Edgerton and Negga received critical acclaim (they were both nominated for a Golden Globe) and she got her first Academy Award Nomination, on her work the Irish-Ethiopian actress said: “There’s often a job that’s a ‘before and after’ for an actor, this is that kind of job for me.”
We cannot watch this movie and not think of what it’s going nowadays, and on this note we leave you with the words of the director: “In a climate where we feel the movements in society are being made by big political machinery. People made a difference here. Individuals.”