“Loving” Review: An Unconventional Love Story

“Loving” is not your typical love story. “Loving,” directed by Jeff Nichols, is a film that depicts the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga respectively, of the infamous “Loving v. Virginia” case. Taking place over many years in the late 1950s and ‘60s, “Loving” centers on the conflicts of the interracial marriage between Richard, a white man, and Mildred, a black woman. The film does an excellent job at translating their story to the silver screen.

One of the reasons the movie excels is because the characters are multidimensional, relatable, and likeable. The audience can also evoke sympathy and have pity for these characters through the characters’ hardships. Through the trials Richard and Mildred face, the audience can see an evolvement of the characters and their relationship, giving the audience an urge to root for their success and fight their fight along with them. The supporting cast were great too, with Bernie Cohen, played by Nick Kroll, standing out. He has several comedic moments that lighten the mood at times, allowing the audience to become more relaxed and comfortable.

Rather than focus on how the two characters met or fell in love, the film explores the hardships of their marriage. As evidenced in the opening scene, in which Mildred reveals that she is pregnant, the audience is tossed right into the characters’ intimate relationship. Since the relationship between Richard and Mildred loving is already established, the audience is able to become familiar with the characters themselves. The characterization in this opening scene is well done; in this opening scene, the audience understands the characters’ qualities through their little quirks. For example, Richard pulls his lips with his teeth to indicate his shyness.

The acting is superb, with performances of the two lead actors, Negga and Edgerton, being a highlight of the film. Negga in particular exudes the character of Mildred with her subtle facial expression and body language, and Edgerton does the same. Their subtle quirks allows the audience to understand their emotion, pain, and struggle with little dialogue, demonstrating just how non-verbal language is just as strong as verbal language in films. Both the dialogue the non-verbal storytelling excelled.  

The soundtrack and the score fits well with the movie, and is never jarring. This allows the audience to become immersed in the atmosphere. The soundtrack transports the audience to the time period the movie depicts, while also adding gravitas to the film; the score accurately set the mood of each scene. Also, the sound effects, like the sound of crickets, were intricate, making the movie even more immersive.

With such a tough subject matter, the director was able to translate the story into film. Having been based on a documentary, the movie captures the feeling, mood, and tone of the era.

“Loving” is not a sappy love story. It is not about a legal battle. It is about facing obstacles and overcoming them. This is highly enjoyable film and it is tearjerker. It can be expected, with it being released towards the end of the year, to have a few Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for the upcoming year.

Director’s Notes – The Lions’ Pride was able to sit down at a Q & A with the film’s director.

The film is based on Nancy Buirski’s documentary “The Loving Story,” which tells the story of the two main characters; to get additional details for the film, Nichols met Peggy, the only surviving child of Mildred and Richard, who are both dead. In fact, the director went to Peggy’s home and showed her the script, with which Peggy did not say a word; Fittingly, Nichols describes Peggy as quiet like her father and as a result, Nichols claims that he knew then he wasn’t going to get a lot of detail from her.

Also, the director discussed the opening scene and how he decided not to make the beginning of the movie focus on how the characters fall in love. In fact, the director says that he thought it would not have fit if the characters, who lived across from each other since they were young, were in the fields with sparks flying when they are children.

Instead the director utilized the opening scene for the audience to jump right into the relationship of the characters and their quirks. For example, Richard pulls his lip and teeth is shown a certain way to indicate his shyness.

Negga actually got the job because of her commitment, as Nichols described.  A casting director presented a handful of actresses for the role of Mildred while Nichols was working on another film. Among the actresses auditioning, Negga was the first Nichols saw. Nichols mentioned that Ruth transformed into Mildred during this audition. Having listen to the recording of Mildred’s voice every night on loop and witness footage of the couple, Ruth was able to capture the voice and quirks, such as the way she perks her lips.

Nichols also ensured that sound effects went along with each scene. In fact, Nicols and the sound effects department went through 20 iterations of the sound of crickets chirping to ensure that the sound was not too loud but able to be heard.

The director also talked about the absence of writing on the screen indicating the amount of time that has passed between certain scenes; instead the director said he used visual cues, such as snow or leaves falling, to indicate the season changing and the passing of time.

The documentary never mentioned that Mildred was pregnant during pregnancy; but with a quick Google search and some digging, Jeff Nichols stated he looked at birth dates of the first born, the marriage date, and the arrest date to find out she was in fact pregnant during prison. This simple research allows the story to be depicted more accurately and this allows the reader to sympathize with Mildred even more during her arrest and her time in prison.

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