Loving

November 20, 2016 at 5:50 pm | Posted in 2016 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ½

Movies about pivotal court cases can often be loud, splashy affairs (think “Erin Brockovich” or “The Rainmaker”), building dramatically toward a climactic courtroom showdown. What was so arresting (excuse the pun) about this film was just how quiet it was. The movie opens with silence. There is no score, just two people back lit at night, sitting quietly. It’s a beautiful scene that sets the stage for the story of how two unassuming people managed to change this country. Because it is more a character study than the standard David-vs-Goliath story, the film hinges on the performances of it’s two leads. Joel Edgerton (“Animal Kingdom,” “The Gift”) gives a stellar performance as a painfully shy and unassuming Richard Loving. Having seen him in other roles, I know how much Edgerton transformed to become this man. That said, the strength of the film was in Mildred Loving. Ruth Negga (known largely from television shows like “Preacher”) gives us a woman who is quiet and unassuming like her husband but has an inner strength that drives all the action in the film. This couple’s love is so fierce that they are each willing to go far beyond their comfort zone for the other. These were both incredibly moving performances. Director Jeff Nichols (“Mud,” “Take Shelter”) understands that the power of this story is in the Lovings’ quiet earnestness. He honors that through his tone and pacing, which focuses more on them as a couple than on the sensational nature of the case. In what could have been the “biggest” scene of the film, when the ruling is announced, we are not in the court room with the Supreme Court Justices, we are watching a face, in almost silence, on a phone call. It’s a perfect moment that understands who this story was really about and, larger implications aside, what it meant for one family. This film reminds us the the political is personal and that there are real lives behind culture-shifting moments. As it began, the film ends quietly, simply, focused on two people who loved each other.

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