Review: Loving

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

LOVING was originally reviewed as part of our TIFF 2016 coverage.

PLOT: The true story of Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga) Loving, who fought for over a decade to have their marriage deemed legal in opposition to Virginia’s law prohibiting interracial marriage.

REVIEW: It’s a pretty amazing achievement that director Jeff Nichols has released not one, but two excellent movies in 2016. His first one, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, was probably the bigger of the two, but despite this LOVING, a distinctly indie affair, may wind-up being more commercial, with this civil rights era drama extremely topical in the light of #BlackLivesMatter and notably #OscarsSoWhite, with actress Ruth Negga (Preacher) a strong best actress contender.

loving ruth negga joel edgerton

More than anything, Nichols’s film is a love story, with the ugliness of the era more peripheral. There are no lynch mobs and KKK cross-burning scenes. The racism at hand here is more insidious, with Marton Csokas playing the most vile character, a southern sheriff who seems to honestly believe he’s doing Joel Edgerton’s Richard a favor by denying him his relationship with his beloved wife, telling him that he’s all “mixed-up” with the horribly patriarchal court order that the Lovings either divorce, leave the state for twenty-five years, or face a year in prison each.

Low-key as it is, it’s impossible not to be distinctly affected by the Lovings plight, with Edgerton and Negga extremely convincing as a young couple devoted to each other against all odds. Playing a blue-collar, working-man type, Edgerton disappears into his southern boy part, while the English Negga nails her southern accent (as she does on Preacher), playing arguably the stronger/more savvy of the two with her not afraid to cooperate with the media or the ACLU’s well-intentioned, if naive lawyers (personified by Nick Kroll). By contrast Edgerton’s Richard just wants to be allowed to live in his home state, near his wife’s supportive, large family.

loving ruth negga joel edgerton

Technically sophisticated as always, Nichols has made a beautiful looking film, with another good score by regular collaborator David Wingo. Much of the MIDNIGHT SPECIAL cast shows up in smaller parts, including Michael Shannon in a cameo as a photographer with LIFE magazine who spends time on with the Lovings, while Bill Camp (recently of The Night Of) has some really good scenes as the Lovings first lawyer.

As usual, Nichols has managed to make an emotional engaging film without resorting to maudlin sentimentality. Instead of tearful declarations of love, he prefers to focus on the more day-to-day, tiny acts of love that define the couple, such as Richard laying his head in Mildred’s lap as they watch The Andy Griffith Show, or the way Mildred’s sister hugs Richard for risking arrest to bring his wife home to give birth. It’s very atypical for a period drama, feeling more like a docu-drama than a Hollywood romance, but it’s incredibly efficient and a very strong effort for Nichols, who’s truly proving himself to be one of the great American directors.




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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.