Loving: Film Review
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga
Director: Jeff Nichols
Nominated for Golden Globes and Oscars, Loving's true life tale of the divisions faced by an inter-racial couple, should be a home run.
When construction worker Richard Loving (a simple relatively silent turn by Joel Edgerton) decides to marry Mildred (Negga of Preacher fame) out of state, his rush to matrimonial bliss sparks a degree of a witch-hunt as authorities berate them for breaking anti-miscegenation laws in 1967 Virginia.
From a late-night raid, the duo is split up and imprisoned, but it's only Richard who's freed on bail. And things are further complicated when the duo's banned from returning to the state together for 25 years....
Loving starts with a declaration of pregnancy and then spends the rest of the film avoiding the typical route of a civil rights story, while struggling with how to negotiate some of the tropes of the genre.
By doing so, it eschews the conventional trappings of what essentially could be a court-set series of encounters as the fight for freedom plays out in the 1960s disapproving America.
But it's also a film that takes a long time to get anywhere; and with very little drama happening due to Nicholls' somewhat muted approach to the story, it's a bit of a hard ask for the audience at times.
Complete with perma-scowl and confused looks, Edgerton proffers little emotion under his bleach-blond taciturn approach, but manages to convey a lot with looks and hints of what's going on below the surface.
Equally, Negga's quite sidelined in the first half of the film, but as the arguments rage within her and the injustice boils up, she finds a voice in the second half of the film, and as a result, her character begins to rise.
These are the complexities of Loving and potentially why, for some, it may not be the emotional powerhouse they're expecting, with the end result feeling like the telling of a story, rather than a cathartic response garnered by other films of their ilk.
This is not to cast any darkness on what the Lovings endured and the injustices thereof, but merely, there's a nagging feeling when the lights go up that the release just simply isn't as strong as could be as director Jeff Nichols' (Take Shelter, Mud and Midnight Special) vision of empowerment never truly soars above its own subtleties.