MOVIE REVIEW | Loving (2016)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Breathes new life into the concept of the prestige, period piece biopic.”

Loving 1

“Tell the judge, I love my wife.”

With Shotgun Stories, Jeff Nichols made a movie based on, “understandable antagonistic acts [that] get the ball rolling, and they build so incrementally, that once guns are being shoved in people’s faces and the odd skull gets caved in, you’re totally on board.”  Mud made me describe it’s main, child character as, “a certain blend of innocence and naivety, while also coming off as someone who’s already been there, seen it all and has no time for your bullshit.”  And I described Midnight Special as, “sci-fi spectacle [as] a Trojan horse for some really intimate, internal story telling”.

What I’m getting at is, Jeff Nichols has shown a knack for making the sensational real, for using pulp hyperbole to sneak in characters of believable substance, and for using overblown genre tropes to tell stories of what real life is all about.  And it’s a knack that is evident again as Nichols takes on the prestige, period piece biopic, with Loving.

It’s late 50s Virginia and Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) is a simple man with simple needs.  He works a steady job as a brick layer, he works on cars for street drag racing in his spare time, and he loves his girlfriend Mildred (Ruth Nega).  What’s no so simple about his life is that Mildred is black, and inter racial relations are still outlawed in 50s Virginia.  When MiIdred falls pregnant, they hop the border to Washington DC and become man and wife.

When the racist cops of Virginia make it clear that they have no intention of recognising the authority of an out of state wedding licence, the Lovings move back to Washington DC where they’re family grows.  But their desire to move home can’t be quashed, and soon they have the ACLU on their side as they sue the state of Virginia and fight for their right to marriage and to be legally recognised as a family.

Across his five movies, writer and director Jeff Nichols has proven to be a master of economy.  In an era of bloated comic book movies, indulgent dramas and Apatow comedies cracking two hours, Nichols cuts the shit, gets to the point and has never had time for a single frill in the movies he makes.  For me, that is major upside to all of his movies, including Loving, but I can also understand why it could turn some viewers off.

When Loving starts, Richard and Mildred are already an established couple, her pregnancy is revealed in the first few minutes and the legal troubles aren’t far behind.  The movie never resorts to spoon feeding me the couple’s dating history or showing clichéd evidence of their love.  Because this isn’t a movie about how they came to love each other.  It’s a movie about the hardships they were willing to endure because of that already established love.

It doesn’t go for easy, crowd pleasing moments like rousing, court room speeches and bombast.  It goes for the small moments of family life for the Lovings, and how these small moments are so different for them while their denied rights that seem so obviously deserved in 2017.

Loving 2.jpg

And it’s this smallness that I can see making Loving a little anti climactic for some people.  I loved it, but I wouldn’t think anyone was wrong for feeling a little ripped off or let down by the lack of soaring music moments.  But as someone who’s on board with the Jeff Nichols commitment to less is more, seeing it applied to this style of prestige, period piece biopic, just meant I was excited to see new life breathed into the concept of the prestige, period piece biopic.

Directed By – Jeff Nichols
Written By – Jeff Nichols

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