BY ROGER THOMAS
I felt like I knew the story of “Loving” before I saw the whole film. The trailer has been out for several months and there are an abundance of poignant moments in that trailer. I kept hoping that there was more to the story that was equally strong as the early glimpses.
I am happy to report that there are a great many more powerful moments throughout this extraordinary story.
“Loving” depicts the story of Richard and Mildred Loving. In 1958, the couple drove from their home state of Virginia to the District of Columbia so that they could be legally married. They could not receive a marriage license in Virginia because Richard was a Caucasian and Mildred was an African-American. Shortly after their wedding, both of them were arrested and charged with a crime. Their sentence stated the couple could never be in Virginia at the same time for the next twenty-five years. If they violated this rule, they would be sent to prison.
“Loving” is an important story. One that eventually ends up in the United States Supreme Court.
Is this a film about prejudice? Yes, among other things. There are many troubling scenes in the film and many people who act hatefully. As I watched these moments two thoughts kept running through my head. “Weren’t those suppose to be the good ole days?” and “Is 1958 one of times of greatness to which we are heading back?” We are not a “perfect union” but “Loving” is a striking reminder that our nation is better, healthier in many ways, when compared to nearly sixty years ago.
The film, however, is not just about prejudice and hatred. It is also, as the title would offer, about love. Richard and Mildred want to be married not to make a statement, or create a conflict, or to rebel. In fact, these two people, at least as they are depicted in the film, are calm, quiet, kind individuals who only want what all persons should have, the opportunity to be with the one they love.
Beyond the love between the two leads, there are other examples of love. Mildred’s family embraces Richard and likewise with Richard’s mother’s love for Mildred. One of the best lines spoken by Mildred in the film is this: “I know we have some enemies, but we have some friends too.” Most of the people we interact with each day are not persecuted the way this couple was over fifty years ago, but we do understand the power of friendship. The Lovings had an abundance of love in their lives which more than likely fueled their quest for justice.
The film is filled with great artistry. The two leads deserve the attention of the Academy. There is also buzz for several other potential nominees in production design, costumes and make-up, all of which sets the mood in the South in the fifties and sixties.
The screenplay is one of the finest this year. I quoted a line above and here are two more samples from the script: Mildred tells a reporter, “We may lose the small battles, but win the big war.” And when their lawyer asked Richard if there is anything Richard wants him to tell the justices Richard responds this way, “Tell the judge, I love my wife.”
Director Jeff Nichols has directed five films. I have not seen his directorial debut, “Shotgun Stories.” His second film, “Take Shelter” was one of my favorite films of 2011. I also liked “Mud,” from 2012, a great deal. “Midnight Special” from earlier this year received a mixed review from me.
Now there is “Loving.” May Oscar award this film with many nominations. It is an important story, well-told, well-presented, and one of the best films of the year.