Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton expertly portray real-life couple, Mildred and Richard Loving whose quest for equality, acceptance, and the right to love makes its way to the Supreme Court after their marriage violates a Virginia law prohibiting interracial marriage.
♦♦♦ Full Spoilers Below ♦♦♦
Jeff Nichols directs the story of Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter from their courtship to their marriage in Washington, DC. Although the pair is clearly in love and fully committed to one another, the state of Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws deems their marriage illegal. The pair are jailed for their actions (Mildred being pregnant at the time), and despite the obstacles against them, neither wants to let the state and bigotry win.
After being charged in 1958, the couple must make a decision between getting divorced immediately, or spending a year in prison- unless they agree to leave the state of Virginia. If they take the last option, they will not be allowed to re-enter the state for 25 years. The pair struggle with the decision as Virginia is their home and the only place they’ve ever known. This is the place they believed they would raise a family and now, it was all going to change. But, their love for one another outweighs the idea of all they’d be leaving behind.
When the arrival date of their baby nears, Mildred tells Richard that she always pictured his mother as the one to deliver the baby. So, they sneak back into Virginia and all is well when Mildred and Richard have their baby. However, someone has told the authorities that the couple is back in town and they are arrested again by Sheriff Brooks.
Their lawyer, who is friends with the judge, manages to save them from being incarcerated once more and again, they are forced to leave the state.
After leaving with their newborn son, the film goes through the years they spend living with relatives in Washington. During this period they have two more children. Now a family of five, Mildred longs more than ever to be back in the country. It is during this moment that she decides to send a letter to Attorney General Robert Kennedy, whose office gave the Lovings’ case to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
She is later contacted by one of the lawyers at the ACLU, and she excitedly tells Richard the good news. When the case is to be tried in the Supreme Court, their lawyers want to increase the Lovings’ visibility. They are interviewed by the media and have their photos taken for LIFE magazine. Soon, everyone knows who the Lovings are and what they are fighting for.
Richard is still unsure of all of the attention, but as he loves his wife more than anything, he is willing to do whatever he has to in order to stay together and return to their family in Virginia. Their lawyers warn them that the state of Virginia’s defense will be to use their children against them, arguing that it is cruel and unfair to bring mixed-race children into the world.
This was something that hit me the hardest while watching the film. Being biracial myself, I could never imagine my parents in a situation where they would be told that the very idea of them having me would be deemed cruel or unfair to me. It is mind-boggling that children who’d known nothing but love and support from two parents would be used as pawns in such a way.
It’s a scary thing to think about the lengths people went in order to keep the Lovings and their family separated. Thankfully, the state of Virginia’s tricks did not work in their favor and the case, Loving v. Virginia became one of the most notable Civil Rights cases in American history.
Director, Jeff Nichols shows the Lovings in all their humanity which I loved. From the very first moment, the Lovings are introduced, you only want for them to win.
Nichols’ directing is very visceral. He is always showing someone doing something- whether it’s picking up the kids for a hug, laying bricks, or washing the dishes. He finds a way to show the protagonists as the people they were- doing what they would do in their day-to-day lives, as opposed to focusing on the Lovings as one of the biggest Supreme Court cases of the time. I enjoyed it; it made the film feel even more personal to me than it already did.
Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton shine in this film. Their chemistry with one another is beautiful to watch, and their portrayals of Mildred and Richard are superb. I would not be surprised if the pair get nods in the best acting categories once award season rolls around. It would be more than well deserved.They capture your heart and demand your attention in every scene, and I really hope the pair will have the chance to work with one another again at some point. But, as good as Edgerton is, I would have to argue that Negga definitely steals the show.
It is a beautiful story about humanity, fighting for what you believe in and above all, love. I encourage everyone to watch this movie when it hits theaters this November.
By Britany Murphy