Sunday, September 25, 2016

TIFF 16 Film Review - Loving

The 1967 Supreme Court case Loving vs. Virginia that decide that marriage is a right for all Americans regardless of the race of either participant is the backdrop for Jeff Nichols latest film. If the viewer is expecting violence, vitriol or anger directed towards the Lovings they will not find in this film. Instead the couple Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga) go about their everyday lives as their encounters with the law proceed forward towards the Supreme Court.

Richard is a general labourer in the poorer area of Virginia. He goes to work each day on the job site doing masonry work to build houses. Mildred spends her days at the family farm until Richard comes home. In their leisure time the pair go out with friends when Richard is not working on his car or going to the racetrack to compete in drag races. The couple is unremarkable until Richard proposes marriage which they do in Washington D.C. leading to their first run in with the authorities start of their legal entanglement when the local Virginia police learn of the event and their whereabouts.

Director Jeff Nichols takes a socially charged subject and presents in a quiet even paced manner. Mildred and Richard are not portrayed as a couple making grandiose speeches, large gestures or looking to be involved in open confrontation. Instead they take every step in stride, remaining optimistic and hopeful with Mildred being more vocal while Richard's statement on the affair is Tell the Judge I love my wife.

Nichols takes his time unwinding the narrative before he reveals the facts of the Loving's crime. They can face serious jail time if they are caught together in Virginia and the conditions of their suspended sentence from their first court case is a 25 year ban from returning to the State at the same time.

Ruth Negga is the main voice of the couple as Mildred. She makes the decision on where the family will live. She does the main communication with the lawyers and sends the vital letter to Washington to get their case moving in the right direction. Joel Edgerton performance as Richard is more physical.  He communicates with gestures, body language and facial expressions. When he talks its short sentences or grunts but he does speak up at the most critical times. Nick Kroll plays a key part as ACLU lawyer Bernie Cohen who first sees the potential of the Loving's case. He understands  the nuances of his clients but knows he will need help as he's well out of his league with the case. Nichols' muse Michael Shannon has an important part as the Life magazine report that spends a day with the family to produce the article and photos that brings their case to National attention.

Loving is an important story that lead to a landmark American court decision. Director Nichols focused on the couple's struggle delivering the story in a straight forward manner.  The narrative is free of demonstrations at the police headquarters or protests on the steps of the State Legislature. Instead the production narrows in on the everyday life of the pair as they continue on a path to give them the right be able to live and raise their children together.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

Loving | Jeff Nichols | UK / USA | 2016 | 123 Minutes.

Tags: Virginia, 1958, Marriage, Arrest, Jail, Illegal, Supreme Court, Exile, Drag Racing, Life Magazine.

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