Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga are real life mixed race couple Richard and Mildred Loving, whom after getting married in Washington are arrested upon their move back into Virginia. They are faced with the choice of splitting up for good or keeping their heads down and living in Washington. Three children later, this cramped city lifestyle becomes an impossibility however, so they contact a group of lawyers who agree to take their case to the high court.
Loving as a movie could have gone down many routes. It could have turned into a big rousing courtroom drama with big speeches about inequality, or it could take the route that Jeff Nichols decided on. To tell the story of a couple who despite all obstacles and during a time where it was literally illegal to love each other, just wanted to do so. It’s a remarkably understated and subtle movie about big important things. I found this approach completely compelling and really rather wonderful.
This deliberately paced and unflashy movie depends heavily on the central two performances from Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton. Both are absolutely exceptional. Joel Edgerton is in my eyes on of the finest actors around at the moment and he puts in yet another extraordinary performance here in which he is entirely different to how you’ve ever seen him before. It’s a wonderfully physical performance, as he portrays a man of few words and stifled emotions. Ruth Negga too is absolutely terrific, her quiet optimism is what keeps the film moving forward, but the real key is the two of them together. It seems almost perverse to give them separate awards when this is such a chemistry based performance. It’s a film which needn’t have characters tell the viewer that they are in love. Because it shows you that they are. You can see the looks and the small gestures. When it comes down to it Loving is a film about small gestures, both Edgerton and Negga have these nailed so convincingly you begin to forget that they aren’t a couple. I’d also like to give Michael Shannon a small mention as well, whom yet again is brilliant if in only a small role.
Some may be turned off from Loving due to the deliberately slow pace, but I found once you settle into the company you have on screen it doesn’t seem to move slowly at all. There is possibly a slight lull in the middle between events taking place but I found the company so compelling I didn’t really notice. Loving hasn’t picked up that much awards traction because by its nature it doesn’t really make itself known. It’s a quiet little movie about quiet little people that just so happened to have a world-changing court case surrounding them.
Once again, as with Jackie, the more interesting Biopics have lost out in terms of nominations to more standard movies like Hidden Figures and Lion. Nichols took a real risk making a film this understated and I think that that’s to be congratulated.