Loving is based on the true story of Mildred and Richard Loving (Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton), a mixed-race couple whose marriage was overturned by Virginia state leading them to a court battle which saw interracial marriage legalised across the United States.
The film starts fairly slowly, which is to be expected from the director of Midnight Special and Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols), but this is finally a film which suits his restraint; shunning a glistening Hollywood feelgood pic for a more realistic tale of a blue collar couple struggling to get by, and are caught up in events much bigger than themselves.
What could have been a courtroom drama is instead highly focused on its main couple. Very little is shown of the civil rights movement as a whole, and the consequences of the battle are squarely focused on Mildred and Richard’s life and children.
Negga and Edgerton are good in the lead roles, with Negga providing the emotional anchor to Edgerton’s near-silent man. The witheld drama is both a strength and a weakness, as it does at times leave their relationship feeling a little cold, with limited chemistry between the two.
Refreshingly for a film about a couple trying to achieve something against the odds, it doesn’t go with the tiring and over-worn cliché of one half of the couple (usually the wife) saying they can’t do it any more and threatening to leave. This is something that happens so often (see Trumbo, Donnie Brasco, Rocky III, Selma, Zodiac…) it’s notable by its absence.
Loving is a sensitive and mature look at the civil rights movement through the eyes of an ordinary couple. They’re not great leaders, nor do they seek to be at the centre of a revolution, but nonetheless they’re still an inspiration.