Loving: A powerful tale of love in the face of racism

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga in Loving.
May 2, 2017

Loving
Directed by Jeff Nichols
Starring Joel Edgerton & Ruth Negga
In cinemas

Loving is based on the true story of Richard and Muriel Loving, a white man and Black woman who married in 1958. Living in segregated, Jim Crow-era Virginia they were arrested and convicted of miscegenation — the crime of Black people and white people marrying or having sex.

As a result, for 25 years they were judicially exiled from the state. Years of court battles culminated in a unanimous 1967 Supreme Court decision in their favour.

The story’s power — and it is potent — comes through the quality of the acting and the film’s elegant pace. Joel Edgerton, in particular, communicates everything that needs to be known about Richard entirely via his hunched-over stance and closed-jaw utterance of the few words he speaks.

Ruth Negga slowly unfolds the growing independence and power of Mildred in a manner free of over-acting. Her performance is a study in control and the authority of less-is-more on the screen.

The story telling is communicated by glances and physical presence, which makes for a wonderful cinematic experience.

All characters mumble in heavy Southern accents, sometimes using expressions unknown in Australia, which makes a significant amount of the dialogue unintelligible. 

But when the racist Sheriff Brooke mutters something threatening, you don’t need to discern the words, you feel the chill in your bones. The barbarity of US racism, which still haunts the country, is stark and horrible.

The film is mercifully free of all schmaltz. That such an intelligent film came through the Hollywood saccharine factory is refreshing.

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