'Loving' Movie Review: One of the Best Films of 2016

(l to r) Alano Miller as Raymond, Terri Abney as Garnet, Ruth Negga as Mildred, and Joel Edgerton as Richard in Jeff Nichols LOVING, a Focus Features release.
(Photo : Ben Rothstein / Focus Features)

'Loving' Movie Review: One of the Best Films of 2016

A cinematic take on a familiar story that's deeply relevant today.

Published December 6, 2016

Written by Clay Cane

Loving is a story you might already know, but that doesn’t mean it’s a film you shouldn’t see. 

Based on the story of Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial couple who helped overturn anti-miscegenation laws, the historical drama is surprisingly effective and emotional with a polished script and solid performances. Written and directed by Jeff NicholsLoving is arguably one of the best films of 2016.

Mildred and Richard were married in 1958, jailed and forced to leave the state of Virginia because of laws against interracial marriages, which rooted back to slavery. With the ACLU by their side, the Lovings took their case all the way to the Supreme Court. By 1967, anti-miscegenation statutes were ruled unconstitutional. We have this brave couple to thank for the original fight for marriage equality. 

I was hesitant to see this watershed moment in history on screen. Why watch a dramatization when there is a phenomenal HBO documentary from 2011? But Jeff Nichols, who was inspired to write the script after viewing the doc, clearly had respect for the content, which resonated in every frame. And while Loving is not 100 percent accurate, unlike many historical dramas the broad facts are correct. The movie properly honors the history of the Loving family.

Loving includes strong performances from Joel Edgerton as Richard Loving and Ruth Negga as Mildred Jeter Loving. They have a quiet chemistry, similar to what was shown in the 2011 documentary. Negga shines in a subtle but powerful portrayal. There is no epic screaming or crying, no harrowing monologue. Negga, a strong contender for an Oscar nomination, as Mildred emotes with her soul, absorbing the audience with her fight for love. Edgerton is a perfect match with a nuanced, reflective performance. In addition, the entire supporting cast, virtual unknowns, highlighted some up-and-coming actors that we should all be seeing more of in Hollywood.
 
Most important, Loving is seriously relevant. Much of the language used in the film is nearly identical to the fight for same-sex marriage. Loving proves the labels change, but the tools to oppress the disenfranchised remain the same: fear, hate and the justice system. Equally entertaining and educational, Loving is a story that needed to be told. 

Loving is in theaters now. Check out the trailer below.

Speaking of history, watch President Obama award his final Presidential Medals of Freedom with BET Breaks, above.

(Photo : Ben Rothstein / Focus Features)

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