Virginia 1958. Mixed-race couple Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton), a bricklayer in an all-white gang of builders, and Mildred (Ruth Negga) are deeply in love and decide to get married following her becoming pregnant. Because such inter-racial marriages are not recognised in their state they go to Washington D.C. to have their very modest ceremony. Returning home, one night their house is invaded by police, they are dragged from bed and carted off to police cells where he is temporarily released the following morning, she remaining imprisoned until the magistrate can hear their case a few days later. Obviously he is distraught at having had to leave her in police custody. When the case is heard they are each given a one year prison sentence, suspended provided that they leave Va. and do not return together or see each other again in the state for 25 years. They move to Washington D.C. to live. She has the baby - then the story jumps five years and another two babies later. They both long to return home and it's suggested that she writes to Attorney General Robert Kennedy about her case, which she does, and the matter gets passed on to the American Civil Liberties Union to pursue, first in Virginia itself and then, if necessary all the way up to the Supreme Court - which, of course, happens.
There's no doubt that the real-life subject matter is powerful and, indeed, distressing, though I did find the film for at least the first half a little understated. There were no real surprises and it seemed pretty standard stuff, upsetting though some of it is. However, in the second half I did find myself gradually warming to the film.
Ruth Negga has been nominated for 'Best Actress' Oscar and although she was good, I found the un-nominated Joel Edgerton in the role of her blond, crew-cutted, hunky, quiet husband as the one who made the greater impression. Although he's a man of few words and he keeps his understandable anger internalised, he appears in more scenes than she does and one never knows what he's going to do next, whereas her actions and emotions are fairly by-the-book predictable.
Another thing I liked, which some may see as a weakness, was that there was no grandstanding or triumphalism at the Supreme Court verdict - which you can guess at if, like me, you didn't know about this case.
It's an unassuming film, not at all preachy, and left to speak for itself - though some may feel that it missed a chance in not pushing it, especially when such reactionary attitudes which were relatively widespread in the middle of last century are, very regrettably, worryingly and horribly, becoming more 'acceptable' again, even if it's only occurring in pockets.
I didn't know the name of director and writer Jeff Nichols at all, this being just his fifth film to date, but he did enough here to keep me interested - even if in the end it wasn't a particularly exceptional cinematic experience.......................6.5.
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