Loving bears similarities with Jeff Nichols’ previous films. He starts out small. And he ends off small. The middle is where he negotiates between lines of subtlety without being faint and lose the meaning of the moment entirely. I still think his scenes could do with an extra dose of tension but Nichols’ faithfully sticks by his unassuming and ever so understated approach. With Loving, I think Nichols has finally nailed it.
Loving is finally the Jeff Nichols film that finds power in the understated. Nichols’ low-key affair depicts the life of an inter-racial couple who get in trouble with Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws in 1958. The film focuses almost entirely on Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga’s relationship, framing the things happening around them on the fringe of their existence. Because of the understated style, the things left unsaid linger on with an uncomfortable silence; Mere expressions alone can tell the whole story. This quiet milieu is beset on all sides by an obvious disquiet.
Let’s put this out there. Ruth Negga’s performance is a thing of beauty and I’m rooting for her to bag whatever awards she might be up for. Her turn as a faithful wife who takes care of the household is anything but pedestrian. Negga’s inspired performance matches the open-mindedness and strong will of her character, providing an opposite to entrenched submissiveness of wives in the American South. Part of what shines is the fact that the film is predominantly about the fight against lingering racism but it lends perspective through the eyes of a determined woman. Jeff Nichols does not fall into the familiar trap of accompanying hegemonic masculinity with leading noteworthy causes. Mrs.Loving (Ruth Negga) is as much an individual as she is a wife, and brings a powerful voice to the film’s message. Joel Edgerton is superb as well with his worned-out and uneasy demeanor which belies the fierce love he has for his family. A small grimace to the side and the occasional look of uneasiness is perhaps Edgerton’s most nuanced performance.
There is a formidable strength to Loving that I appreciate alot. And that’s because Loving is the kind of movie stripped of all kinds of exuberance and charade. Simply, there is no need to over-sensationalize a story. Nichols takes that to the max. There is no outright violence in cinematic terms. But the violence is present and presented to us as it were post-Civil War; A malevolence that masks itself well . There is a violence against inter-racial relationships, a violence against the right to marry, a violence against the right of man and violence against equality. Loving discards easy melodrama for something far more substantial and real. There are no fronts to this. Things like bedroom silences and kitchen conversations are commonplace but it is precisely because of this that we can appreciate the sanctity of home and family. Indeed, with the tumultuous challenges that the Loving family faces, it is the most pedestrian aspects of daily life that becomes both a comfort and a struggle. The film perfectly captures the American couple who just want to be together but finds their ideal infringed upon by the seemingly insurmountable outside forces. It is infuriating to watch and yet uplifting and heartwarming at the same time.
By the end of the film, I can’t rave anough about the acting. Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton bring a raw sense of self to the characters they’re playing whilst maintaing the authenticity of their depiction. The film itself is authentic. It’s low-key brilliance is just the kind of style that pays homage to the American family who want to be part of a universal ideal. Through it all, Loving shows us the things worth fighting for are often difficult, but as Mildred Loving said it herself, ‘I’m hopeful.’ What a film.
Rating: 9/10 Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton have to be nominated for their respective roles.