When two simple people who simply want to live in peace find themselves in the middle of a landmark Supreme Court case, their story unfolds with quiet grace, highlighting their commitment. Loving is not just the name of the featured couple in this biopic, it perfectly describes their story. 4 out of 5.
In 1958 the Lovings, Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga), got married—and then arrested, tried, and sentenced to prison for saying their vows. He was white, she was black, and in Virginia their marriage was a crime. Banished from their home state for daring to love each other, Mildred couldn't understand why her home state wouldn't let her go home to her family, so she wrote to Bobby Kennedy—Attorney General at the time—and found herself in the middle of a legal fight that led to landmark Supreme Court ruling.
There's an honesty and a sweetness to this picture that's really appealing. The Lovings are plain, ordinary people. Edgerton said "They just wanted to love each other and have the right to love each other. And so the movie's a love story first." He’s right. The court case is almost an afterthought; the strength of the story is the rock-solid love the Lovings have for each other.
Edgerton's Richard is a man of few words, which causes the ones he does say to pack a wallop. Even when his face is blank he's interesting to watch; it's obvious these still waters run deep. In contrast, Mildred is vivacious and sweet with a smile that lights up the room and an iron resolve that keeps her going no matter what. Their attorneys aren't exactly legal hot-shots, but what they lack in razzle-dazzle they make up in conviction, shepherding the couple all the way to the Supreme Court and a landmark decision.
I kept waiting for things to get really ugly—more racism, violence, cringe-worthy moments. But although violence threatened it never broke out. A few people toss out epithets and show hate-filled attitudes, but for the most part things stay remarkably calm. I half expected the only white guy in the Lovings' D.C. neighborhood to get a little grief, but no. I expected Richard to slug a drinking buddy who was mouthing off, but no. It was almost too palatable.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
The reason given for denying Richard and Mildred the right to marry is that it's "against God’s law," but the real theme here is "the greatest of these is love."
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements
- Language/Profanity: The n-word makes an appearance; the Loving children are described as bast**ds but as a legal designation rather than a derogatory term.
- Sexuality/Nudity: Mildred announces her pregnancy before the couple is married; they are shown in bed together several times but only in the most innocent way.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: A couple of brief childbirth scenes, otherwise violence is more threatened than seen.
Drugs/Alcohol: Beer is drunk on numerous occasions, at meals and in a bar.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Anyone who loves a love story or is interested in civil rights or legal history.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Moviegoers who prefer fast-paced adventure to quiet family stories.
Loving, directed by Jeff Nichols, opened in theaters November 4, 2016; available for home viewing February 7, 2017. It runs 123 minutes and stars Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton, Michael Shannon, Martin Csokas, Nick Kroll, Jon Bass and Will Dalton. Watch the trailer for Loving here.
Susan Ellingburg spends most days helping to create amazing live events and most nights at the movies, at rehearsals, or performing with vocal ensembles in the Dallas area. This leaves very little time for cleaning house. A natural-born Texan, Susan loves all things British, Sunday afternoon naps, cozy mysteries, traveling with friends, and cooking like a Food Network star (minus the camera crew).
Publication date: November 10, 2016