2016 Certificate: 12

Synopsis

After getting married in Washington DC, unassuming working man Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton), who's white, and his bride Mildred (Oscar nominee Ruth Negga), who's black, return to their home state of Virginia to be with their families. But with interracial marriage outlawed in the state, the couple find themselves jailed and then banished from everything they hold dear. But after years in exile, they decide to take their case to the Supreme Court. Two admirably understated performances and direction to match from Jeff Nichols (Mud, Midnight Special) make this a splendidly clear-eyed account of a civil rights case that changed American history.

Director

  • Jeff Nichols

Cast

  • Ruth Negga

  • Joel Edgerton

  • Will Dalton

  • Bill Camp

  • Michael Shannon

  • Marton Csokas

  • Christopher Mann

Review

As the walls of President Trump's America begin to go up, the timing couldn't be better for a history lesson that proves the country does have form when it comes to consigning its less sensible laws to the constitutional dustbin.

This is the story of Richard Loving (Edgerton) and his sweetheart Mildred (Negga), whose only dream was to get married, have babies and live peacefully ever after. Unfortunately, for a white man and a black woman living in 1958 Virginia, that was pure fairytale.

Nevertheless, after a perfectly legal wedding in Washington DC, the pair thought it would be fine to return home as long as they kept a low profile. Following a police raid in the middle of the night, the local sheriff (Marton Csokas) soon puts them straight.

Hauled before a district judge, the Lovings are given a choice: dissolve the marriage or get out of Virginia for the next 25 years. Which is, of course, no choice at all.

However, although Washington never feels like home, their years in exile are not unbearable - builder Richard is always in work and Mildred has all she needs to raise three happy children.

Yet while they are far removed from the civil rights crusaders she sees on TV, Mildred's sense of injustice compels her to write to Bobby Kennedy. The rest is history.

Which is not to downplay the heroic endeavours of the ACLU lawyers who took their case all the way to the Supreme Court. But writer-director Nichols is far more interested in the everyday reasons behind what they were fighting for, not how they fought for it.

The Lovings simply wanted to be left alone. Indeed, Richard couldn't have been less keen to get involved, approaching any publicity with extreme reluctance, regardless of how much it might help their cause.

It's a rare drama that tackles such an emotive issue without ever resorting to grandstanding or histrionics. Driven by two performances of exceptional nuance and restraint, this is a story that inspires us to individually live and let live and collectively do the right thing.

Elliott Noble