Loving tells the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a mixed race couple living in 1950’s Virginia who break the state law prohibiting interracial marriage. The film is an incredibly compelling story about social injustices, and the deep love of a couple that help change the law.
As compelling as the story is, Loving is driven by the power of the film’s leads, Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. Both deliver incredibly understated performances, to say the least. Negga brilliantly portrays Mildred Loving as meek but strong willed. She diligently follows her husband’s lead, but strongly comes into her own when need be. I was most impressed with Edgerton’s performance as Richard Loving, who transforms every fiber of his body to embody the character. The script has very little dialogue, particularly for the leads, so almost the entirety of the actor’s performances are internal, and done masterfully.
The film also benefits from from strong supporting performances. Marton Csokas’ portrayal of Sheriff Brooks could very well have been played to stereotype, but rather than being overly aggressive and overtly racist, Csokas instead gives us a man with a misguided but stern belief system, and an obligation to uphold the law. Brooks could have written as a villain, but instead he is just a man earnestly doing his job, a difficult task given the corruptness of his morals.
I was disappointed that we didn’t see more of Bill Camp, who appears briefly as the Loving’s first lawyer, Frank Beezly. Camp was spectacular in HBO’s The Night Of, and his presence always elevates a scene. In an equally small role is Michael Shannon, who portrays LIFE magazine photographer Grey Villet, who’s photo essay about the Lovings made them known to the country. We are instantly drawn to Villet’s passion for his work, which could be a movie unto itself.
In what I believe to be the most interesting casting in recent history, comedian Nick Kroll portrays ACLU lawyer Bernie Cohen, who takes the Loving’s case to the Supreme Court. Kroll is not known for work in drama, and his casting in such a pivotal role could have backfired, but he pulls it off quite nicely. I can’t say his performance is strongest aspect of the film, but it does nothing to hurt it. Chris Greene and Will Dalton also both deliver solid supporting performances as friends of the Lovings.
Loving could have fallen into the familiar trap of becoming a politically charged courtroom drama, but instead it concentrates on the Lovings themselves, creating a very personal and human story. As a film about a landmark court decision would not have been made without a positive outcome, there is little tension to be had in the climax. But that is not the purpose of the film. In Loving we see the journey and struggles of a family whose love for each other was strong enough to overcome not just social injustices, but the law itself.
The extras for on the Blu-ray for loving are pretty on point for a film of this type. Though each is short, the together they provide some nice added content.
- Commentary features writer/director Jeff Nichols.
- “Making ‘Loving'” is a relatively standard “making of” featurette, though interesting none the less.
- “A ‘Loving’ Ensemble” highlights the casting a performances of the cast.
- “‘Loving’ vs. Virginia” (4:26, HD) briefly tells the story of the real live Loving family through the eyes of the cast and crew, though you’ll learn more watching the HBO documentary that inspired the film.
- “Virginia: A ‘Loving’ Backdrop” highlights the shooting locations of the film, though it’s presented more of a promotional piece for the Virginia Film Commision (to be honest, my work in the film and television industry has been primarily in locations, so I found this piece to be very interesting, though I don’t know that everyone will).
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1
French: DTS 5.1
Spanish: DTS 5.1
Two-disc set (1 BD-50, 1 DVD)
UV digital copy
iTunes digital copy
Slipcover in original pressing