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I haven’t been able to write here since the election. I didn’t want to write about the election, I’d thrown all of that stuff onto Facebook. But I couldn’t motivate myself to write about anything else either. Everything seemed trite and unimportant compared to what had just happened, compared to the pain my friends and family were feeling.
But for better or worse, this is my business, so I have to get back to it. And I realized that there was something I’d seen before the election that fit perfectly into how I was feeling now: Loving. Fiona and I had gone to a screening of this quiet movie about Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that made it legal for people of different races to marry in all 50 states (at the time, 24 states had anti-miscegenation laws).
It’s easy to forget how recently laws like that were on the books. It’s easy to forget how easily the Supreme Court could take away rights that some of us have grown up with as normal. I’m a bit terrified right now for the country, for modern-day versions of the Lovings, whether they’re gay or immigrants or, yes, people of different races (I can’t believe we’re even discussing this in 2016, but people are scared). People who just want to live their lives and be in loving relationships with whomever they want.
A Brief History of The Lovings
The Lovings, Richard and Mildred, lived in Virginia where it was illegal for them to get married. So, they drove to D.C., got married there, and returned home, hoping to quietly live out their lives as husband and wife in peace. They most definitely weren’t trying to make a statement, or garner attention for interracial marriage. They just loved each other.
But someone tipped off the sheriff, and the couple was arrested. In order to avoid jail time, they agreed to leave Virginia and not return together for a period of 25 years. They settled in D.C. to raise their family, largely cutting them off from friends, family, and everything they’d known.
Inspired by the Civil Rights movement of the 60s, Mildred Loving wrote to Robert Kennedy, who was at that time Attorney General, to tell him about her plight. Mildred hated raising her children in D.C., and wanted to go home with her husband for good. The ACLU took up their case. The rest, as they say, is history.It's easy to forget how recently laws like this were on the books. #LovingMovie Click To Tweet
At the end of the movie I turned to Fiona and asked her what she thought. She said, “It was a beautiful movie. It was a little slow, but really good.” No matter what else I write here, I think Fiona hit it exactly on the nose.
The Lovings were quiet people who just wanted to live their lives, and really did not like the attention that the court case brought them. There aren’t many big, dramatic moments in the movie, or huge reactions from the two main subjects. The movie seems to stay very, very true to who they were as people, and doesn’t try to create drama where there isn’t any. Does that make for the most compelling movie? Not always.
The acting in Loving is incredible. I missed out on a chance to interview the writer/director and lead actors because I was away at a conference, and that makes me sad. It’s so much more difficult to play quiet, introspective people. There’s no scenery to chew, nothing to yell about, nothing to use as a crutch. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as Richard and Mildred Loving are absolutely perfect. They were so believable as the Lovings that it was jarring to see them later in interviews, talking in their real accents. I’m not usually pulled in this deeply by actors.
The rest of the cast is great too. The two inexperienced lawyers who bring the case to the Supreme Court, played by Nick Kroll and Jon Bass, seem a bit buffoonish at times. Since writer/director Jeff Nichols seems to have stayed so true to the rest of the people in the movie, I have to assume that this was the case with the lawyers as well. It is a bit jarring to see them, though. They just don’t seem as “real” as the rest of the characters. (Incidentally, I have to mention that if Jeff Goldblum and Joshua Malina had a child together, it would be Nick Kroll.)
This is the kind of movie that has to be watched without distractions. The beauty in this movie is in the glances, the gestures, the thoughtfulness, the quiet moments. Sitting in a dark theater with nothing else pulling at my attention, I loved it. But if I’d been watching it on my couch, I might have been tempted to check Facebook or do a little work while watching, and I would have missed so much.
If you’re wondering whether or not you should see this movie, watch this clip. I think it’s very representative of the movie as a whole. If you find the clip interesting and beautiful and poignant, go see this movie. If you find it boring, you’ll be in for more of the same.
Loving is slowly expanding into more theaters across the country. You can check the Loving website for theaters and other info.