Writer-director Jeff Nichols continues his winning streak of films with Loving, the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, who’s interracial marriage led them to being exiled from their home in the late 50’s. One of my favourite filmmakers working today, Nichols may yet to be on the radar of the masses, but he continues to impress nevertheless with the way in which he manages to tackle different genres with the same distinctive style.
His previous film, for example, was the brilliantly understated and shamefully underseen Midnight Special; a low-key sci-fi similar to the earlier works of Spielberg. It was a summer movie with brains, and which, a few necessary special effects aside, was quiet and contemplative; a tonal decision that is transplanted to a completely different kind of story here.
Much like the former film, Nichols isn’t tackling anything new with this civil rights tale. But even though we’ve seen similar biopics before, especially around award season, none have felt quite as intimate as this.
The Loving’s relationship would turn out to be one with wider implications, quite possibly changing the American constitutional laws and the lives of interracial couples all over the country. Now whereas most filmmakers would be tempted to focus on the facts surrounding the court cases that could change the course of history, for obvious dramatic impact, Nichols, like the film’s central subjects, stays away from the courtroom as often as he can.
Instead, the attention lies primarily on the people themselves and the love they share for one another. So, rather than a drama that tells you how to feel and what to think, Loving ends up being much more of a character study of a man and a wife dealing with extraordinary outside circumstances.
Luckily for the director, he gets to work with two fine actors in the leading roles. Joel Edgerton, an actor who Nichols worked with on Midnight Special (Michael Shannon also shows up briefly as a photographer) gives an introverted performance that is all about his posture and physicality.
And then you have Ruth Negga, whose performance has earned her an Oscar nomination that she may just end up winning. On the surface it may look like she isn’t doing much, but there’s plenty of emotion that bubbles just beneath. She remains virtually silent here, saying more with her glances and movement than she does verbally – it’s fantastically nuanced and thrilling to watch.
The nuance is carried on right through the film, which takes its time in unraveling the story and exploring the different layers to the Loving’s relationship, whether that be the sense of regret that Richard may have in choosing to marry Mildred, or Mildred’s determination to fight for their freedom.
Love is what ultimately shines through the film though, and the Loving’s story is so wonderful to watch without ever feeling too saccharine. From its performances to its cinematography and direction, Loving is unique cinema that makes you feel as opposed to think. Put simply, I loved it.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com