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dir-scr Jeff Nichols
prd Nancy Buirski, Ged Doherty, Colin Firth, Sarah Green, Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub
with Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Terri Abney, Alano Miller, Nick Kroll, Michael Shannon, Marton Csokas, Jon Bass, Bill Camp, Christopher Mann, Sharon Blackwood, Andrene Ward-Hammond
release US 4.Nov.16, UK 3.Feb.17
16/US Focus 2h03
Forbidden love: Negga and Edgerton
CANNES FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
An unusually restrained drama, this true story unfolds without even a hint of sensationalisation, even though it involves a huge theme and historically significant events. Writer-director Jeff Nichols keeps everything grounded in authenticity, unafraid of real-life complexities that may leave the film feeling a bit unfinished. And it carries a potent kick.
In 1958 Virginia, Richard Loving (Edgerton) takes his pregnant girlfriend Mildred (Negga) to Washington DC to get married. Cross-racial marriage is illegal in their home state of Virginia, and they are soon arrested, banished from the state if they want to live together. They start a new life in Washington, but as their family grows, Mildred longs to raise their three children back in their rural home near their extended families. Then an ACLU lawyer (Kroll) offers some hope, taking on the system with the help of a constitutional expert (Bass).
Nichols writes and directs this film with a subtle attention to detail that undermines audience expectations. The story never swells up into a big emotional flourish, and the most momentous scenes happen off camera. Instead, he keeps the cameras locked on the faces of these inarticulate, earthy people who changed the law of the United States simply by remaining true to their love for each other. It's a remarkable approach to a big political story, and it carries added weight for remaining at such a human scale.
This also means that Edgerton and Negga are allowed to deliver quietly devastating performance without ever going over the top. Both characters are reluctant to speak out, so they express their vast, complex feelings through glances, shrugs and gentle touches. And both actors beautifully highlight the fact that it was the unassuming dignity of Richard and Mildred that brought about this significant change. The more talkative side characters are also sharply well-played to feed into this central idea.
In other words, this is a striking encouragement to the audience to live by the principles that we know are correct: have respect for other people, and don't deny them their love and happiness. So even if the film feels a little slow, and perhaps rather self-indulgent in its refusal to give us the cathartic climax we are craving, it's still a potent telling of a key historical moment. And by refusing to heighten the drama, it reminds us that the most important events in our lives are rarely as exciting as the movies pretend they are.
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