By Olivia Buster, ’20
Being an outcast, a society unwilling to understand, the inability to be accepted for what you love. A PG-13 rated,historical drama set mostly in the 1960s, Jeff Nichol’s Loving focuses on all three of these topics. Released Nov. 4 by Focus Features, Loving is based on the real life story of Mildred and Richard Loving in Caroline County, Virginia.
Richard, a white man, and Mildred, a black women, cannot get married in Virginia due to the marriage laws. The Lovings travel to Washington D.C. to get married, but what they don’t know are the series of events that will ensue after their marriage. The topic of past American racism is often discussed in school textbooks across the United States, but Nichol’s Loving grants students a different perspective on racial discrimination. Richard and Mildred’s struggle in declaring Virginia’s law unconstitutional, combined with disapproval from much of society, causes viewers to understand the emotional impact of discrimination.
Although quite dramatic, the film Loving proves to be an accurate portrayal of the Lovings’ hardships. Jeff Nichols, who both directed the film and wrote the script, imbues each scene with specific details that pertain to the actual Loving couple. Major scenes, such as the Lovings’ arrest when discovered together, maintains a high level of accuracy. Mildred explains this situation in a 1967 interview to ABC News, “It was about 2 a.m., and I saw this light, you know, and I woke up. There was the policeman standing beside the bed. And he told us to get up, that we were under arrest. They asked Richard who was that woman he was sleeping with, and I said, ‘I’m his wife,’ and the sheriff said, ‘Not here you’re not.’” The movie scene follows Mildred’s recount precisely, almost word by word. Even smaller details such as Mildred’s nickname “Bean” are included. Along with the content of the film, the setting maintains the same level of accuracy. Details including types of cars in the ’60s, the clothing from the time period, and the rural area creates a realistic portrait of life for the Lovings.
Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton excel in their role of Mildred and Richard Loving, and will impress audience members. Mildred Loving is portrayed as quiet, poised and humble; Richard Loving is reserved, strong and stoic. Negga talks with a soft tone and gentle movements, while Edgerton avoids eye contact and hides his emotions. Characteristics of other actors are also recognizable to viewers, especially actors who have roles with prejudices. Martin Csokas plays the sheriff who arrests the Lovings, and from the start his attitude towards the Lovings is evident. Through disapproving glances and lines delivered with strong intolerance towards the couple, Csokas succeeds in making his bigotry apparent.
Loving captivates audiences with emotion and visual appeal, with the help of Editor Julie Moore. Moore dramatizes Loving using camera shots to expose character emotion. Close ups of Mildred when she is taken to the county jail capture the innermost turmoil she experiences. A combination of fear and uncertainty are shown through her eyes. Moore also alerts viewers of significant details of the story. A close up of Richard and Mildred holding hands while driving to Washington D.C., signify their affection towards one another. Likewise, a lingering camera on Richard hanging a marriage license on the wall demonstrates his sense of pride for the marriage.
Overall, Nichols produced a film that connects with viewers through heartwarming moments and complex characters. The film produces feelings of injustice in the harassment of an innocent couple by a society only able to notice color. With historical facts true to the original story, and deep rooted emotions, Loving will leave viewers with a deeper insight on the meaning of love and prejudice.