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Wednesday 29 March 2017

Negga radiant in evocative drama about love across racial divide

Ruth Negga as Mildred Loving and Joel Edgerton as Richard Loving
Ruth Negga as Mildred Loving and Joel Edgerton as Richard Loving

The human heart refuses to be constrained by rationality or reason. We are all slaves to those 10 ounces of throbbing muscle, savouring every flutter of pleasure in the knowledge that, inevitably, there will be murmurs of pain as we mourn those closest to us.

Film review: Loving (12A), 7.5/10

Loving is a handsomely crafted drama about two mild-mannered, yet courageous souls from opposite sides of the racial divide in late 1950s Virginia, who followed their hearts in strict defiance of the Racial Integrity Act, which criminalized interracial marriages in the state.

The unerring devotion of Richard Loving to his wife Mildred, in the face of fierce opposition from some friends and neighbours, led to a landmark 1967 legal ruling by the US Supreme Court that finally overturned decades of prejudice.

This remarkable courtroom battle against bigotry and bureaucracy provides writer-director Jeff Nichols with a deep emotional core that compels us to root for Richard and Mildred when all hope is lost.

Nichols' script draws inspiration from Nancy Buirski's celebrated 2011 documentary the Loving Story and invents some peripheral characters for the sake of dramatic expediency, without weakening the emotional wallop of the film's understated final act.

Construction worker Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) falls giddily in love with family friend Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga).

When she falls pregnant, the couple decide to marry.

Forbidden from consummating their relationship in Virginia, Richard and Mildred drive to Washington DC and return home with a marriage licence, which they proudly display on the wall of their home.

Sheriff Brooks (Marton Csokas) arrives soon after with his deputies and arrests the Lovings.

They are eventually released, but the couple must publicly keep their distance.

'All we got to do is keep to ourselves for a while and this'll blow over,' Richard tenderly assures Mildred.

Alas, his optimism is misplaced and the couple narrowly avoids a one-year stint behind bars by agreeing that they will not return to Virginia together for 25 years.

The case eventually attracts the interest of American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) and trailblazing civil rights lawyer Phil Hirschkop (Jon Bass).

Meanwhile, freelance photographer Grey Villet (Michael Shannon) is commissioned to capture an intimate portrait of the Lovings' home life for TIME magazine.

Loving sensitively recreates a battle for justice waged by two quietly spoken people, who changed the course of history.

Edgerton is mesmerising as the stoic husband, whose only instruction to his legal team is to 'tell the judge I love my wife'.

Oscar nominee Negga is similarly radiant as the emotional rock in the eye of a legal storm.

Director Nichols beautifully evokes the era, allowing his camera to focus on the couple's tribulations against a backdrop of meticulous period detail.

Wicklow People

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