Sometimes the scariest or, depending on your situation the best news you can hear is the life changing words, “I’m pregnant.” This is how John Nichols’ powerful film, Loving opens, with Mildred (a phenomenal Ruth Negga… who’s one of our own, she was raised in Limerick, wan the parish!) declaring this statement to her partner Richard Loving (a bleached, but wonderful Joel Edgerton). And in one of many silent, but absolutely beautiful moments, he simply takes her hand, kisses her on the forehead and instantly reassures her. And then, Richard asks Mildred to marry him, she accepts and their marriage is met with a swift arrest as interracial marriage is illegal in Virginia and they are exiled from the place that they both grew up in.
In a clever change of pace, Nichols does not use the film as a platform for shouty, angry speeches, impassioned scenes of change, but instead tells the story of a couple who fell in love with each other and want to raise their family. There is no self-righteous, awards baiting speeches, just two people struggling to exist, survive and love each other in a time when their skin colour was deemed more important by those in power.
Mildred pens a letter to the then Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy who defers the case to the American Civil Liberties Union. The union appeal to the couple and Richard reluctantly agrees to let them take over the case which ultimately leads all the way to the Supreme Court. This is a pivotal moment, not only in the story and the real life implications that the case would have on humanity, civil rights and the abolition of interracial marriage laws preventing it, but it is also a triumph as Richard does not care a jot for the implications, he just wants to love and raise his family.
The stand out scene is when the civil rights lawyer assigned to the case, a great Nick Kroll asks Richard if there is anything that he wants to say to the judge when they eventually get to the Supreme Court to which he replies, “Tell the judge I love my wife.” Absolutely perfect response. Richard is not a man of many words, he is a man who goes to work, comes home, kisses his wife and kids, eats dinner with them and then tucks them into bed. That one line answer is how he would have responded, from his blue collar heart.
The film goes at a gentle pace and draws wonderful performances from all the cast, the story is allowed to breathe at a natural rate and does not jar or use hype or impassioned speeches. A wonderful film that tells a lovely story about two humans who just wanted to love each other. Tremendous.
By Jamie T. Murphy