Southern Love Story (Loving Review)

Interracial couple Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred Loving (Ruth Negga) fell in love and were married in 1958. They grew up in Central Point, a small town in Virginia that was more integrated than surrounding areas in the American South. Yet it was the state of Virginia, where they were making their home and starting a family, that first jailed and then banished them. Richard and Mildred relocated with their children to the inner city of Washington, D.C., but the family ultimately tries to find a way back to Virginia.

We’re approaching the end of the year and now it’s now that time of year when all the buzz-worthy films are released (at least most of them). This one is interesting as it features an Australian and an Ethiopian playing a real-life southern interracial couple from 1950s Virginia. Richard (Edgerton) and Mildred (Negga) Loving were a couple madly in love and eventually got married in 1958. The place that they thought was their home responded by jailing and then banishing them. They had to move out of the state but despite their banishment, they fought to get back to Virginia.

The Lovings dynamic was very evident early on, it was clear that they’ve been together for a long time. They loved each other and wanted to make a life for themselves. The film also showed the small town dynamic early on. Their town of Central Point, Virginia was more integrated than most. White and colored people alike got along well. Despite that, it was still against the law for interracial couples to marry in Virginia, so it was still surprising (or maybe not really) that once they returned from getting married, authorities were alerted of their marriage and were immediately arrested. It is unclear how the police kept showing up since it seemed like they were alerted but the film never mentioned this.

Instead of covering the history of the time, the film chose to focus on the Lovings and their journey, and how their relationship was tested. After being banished, the Lovings moved to Washington D.C. but Mildred never felt comfortable there as it wasn’t a place where she wanted to raise her family. She missed her town and her family Devoted to his wife, Richard stuck with her and supported her. They still managed to find a way back to Central Point a few times with the help of each of their families but they always got caught.

For help, they sought legal help which led to their banishment instead of significant jail time but they so desperately wanted back in Virginia. Since their case became high profile, they attracted the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and a young, lawyer named Bernard Cohen (Nick Kroll). Because of his inexperience in Constitutional law, he enlisted the help of another lawyer named Phil Hirschkop (Jon Bass). Together, they fought for them through several levels of government. Unfortunately, we did not get to see any of it. The longer they went, the more high profile their case became which made Richard become more uncomfortable. Still paranoid and generally not trusting of people with their situation, more people around them made things worse.

The Lovings were captivating to watch. Their relationship felt real and they were both very likable and relatable so it was easy to feel along with them, from their highs to their lows. From the way they looked at one another, their love was evident. Their love and their marriage wasn’t hurting anyone so it was frustrating that they couldn’t live in their home. They were not the only ones affected as their families were affected as well, especially Mildred’s family as some blamed Richard for taking her away from them.

The film was nice to look at thanks to the cinematography which beautifully depicted the period. From the costumes, to the set design, to the score, the film was authentic to the time. The performances were the best part of the film as Edgerton and Negga were great in different ways. Edgerton masterfully captured Richard’s emotion as a man torn by injustice and his devotion to his wife and his willingness to do anything for her. Negga also beautifully captured Mildred’s emotion through a more subdued performance and her willingness to not compromise her interests while still standing by her husband. Their chemistry sold the relationship. It was nice to see Kroll in a more dramatic capacity but he didn’t really have much to do.

Overall, this was a great drama which doesn’t fully capture the time but is led by great performances from Edgerton and Negga.

Score: 9/10

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