Imagine being drug from your bed in the middle of the night and being incarcerated by police because they say your marriage is against the law. That’s exactly what one white man and his black wife experienced in Virginia in 1958.
“Loving,” written and directed by Jeff Nichols, tells the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, played beautifully by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. The Lovings were the two plaintiffs in the landmark civil rights decision of Loving v. Virginia that invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.
‘Loving’ was not very dialogue heavy, nor was there any overwhelming emotion displayed from characters, but it delivered a strong message nonetheless. Considering slavery was abolished in 1865, it’s still a hard concept to know that in the 60s it was still illegal in some places in America to marry someone of a different race.
‘Loving’ portrays Richard and Mildred, a quiet and humble couple that were proud of their relationship and the few people that supported it. Even through the most intense times of this civil rights case, the couple remained hopeful and just as dedicated to each other as ever. When Richard wasn’t supporting his family by working in construction, he tended to his passion of automobile racing with Mildred right by his side.
When the couple decided to marry, they took a road trip to Washington DC, knowing there would be less red flags about their “unconstitutional” marriage there unlike their hometown of Caroline County, Virginia. Unfortunately, when the couple moved back, the police found out and had both Richard and Mildred arrested and then banished from VIrginia for 25 years. The couple was confused and broken at the inequity their government showed them.
Knowing she didn’t want to raise her children anywhere else, Mildred wrote a letter to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy asking for help. Surprisingly, he responded, leading the couple to receive help from lawyers representing the ACLU, taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court.
The quiet and sweet demeanor of the couple is what makes them such likeable characters. Richard is a hard working and soft spoken man who wasn’t a fan of all the publicity the case was receiving. Mildred, being just as shy, knew the importance of the case and knew that it could help many people in the future if they won, and she welcomed publicity.
One such case of publicity came from a sequence of the film where “Life Magazine” photographer Gray Villet comes to the couple’s farmhouse to observe the intimate moments of their lives, putting a more gentle face on such an unfair trial. Becoming one of the most iconic image of the 60s, Villet manages to get a shot, without looking through the viewfinder, of the couple watching television with Richard’s head in his beloved wife’s lap. This candid shot gives the audience even more reason to love the couple who finds time for each other in even the most stressful situation of their lives.
Should you watch it? Yes!
The simplicity of “Loving” replaces the aggressive angle media usually puts on reenactments of civil rights issues during the 60s. This film encompasses the importance of fighting for human rights, such as marriage, while still putting a somewhat tranquil face on the issue through Richard and Mildred’s triumph.