LOVING is based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, played here by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, whose interracial marriage was illegal in Virginia in 1958 even with a valid marriage license from Washington DC. Their arrest and subsequent banishment from the state led to the American Civil Liberties Union, or the ACLU, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court where a unanimous ruling declared Virginia’s law unconstitutional, along with similar ones in 23 other states. The movie was written and directed by Jeff Nichols and also stars Michael Shannon and Nick Kroll.
I was looking forward to LOVING pretty much because I enjoy love stories and that’s what this boils down to in the end. In the movie as well as in the true life story of Mildred Loving she said that although the ACLU took on the case, it wasn’t about civil rights as much as being able to return home and love who she wanted to without restriction.
Another true-to-life line is that Mildred says living in DC is like living in a cage. Perhaps without even meaning to, Mildred realizes that living is DC is no different from being trapped in a jail cell–a cage–because neither one allowed her to make decision for herself. The movie emphasizes the differences between Virginia and DC through the use of nature. When the Lovings are in Virginia there are lots of quiet shots of fields, mountains and greenery as compared to DC where, when they arrive, there’s only a small plot of overgrown grass in front of their new home.
The other thing the natural elements in LOVING served to do was show how Mildred and Richard’s life was full and vibrant. One of the early scenes with the couple is when Richard shows Mildred an acre of land he has purchased where he wants to build a home for them. Right behind him is a large field with crops, evidence of growth, life and vitality. The movie even opens with Mildred telling Richard about her pregnancy, in and of itself a statement of life.
There’s a balance between sensationalizing a time period and simply depicting it and LOVING felt like it didn’t do either one accurately, much to its detriment. Presumably, life wasn’t easy for Richard and Mildred as an interracial couple in a state where their relationship was against the law, yet no one other than the judge who sentences them really seems to care. I think it’s entirely possible that Jeff Nichols, who wrote and directed the movie, was trying to strike a balance of tension without turning the movie into a sensationalistic experience. By not showing any sexual scenes of Richard and Mildred’s relationship and no dramatic run-ins the movie became sterile and lacked the dramatic tension that must have been so much a part of the Lovings’ lives.
For more about LOVING, including how the drag racing scenes parallel the action of the story, take a look below:
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