How is it that some people care so passionately about who other people are allowed to love and marry? How does a concept like interracial marriage actually affect them in any way, let alone hurt them? How can we speak of ourselves as a free people when the government gives themselves the right to decide who we can love? These are the questions at the center of this quietly wonderful film.
I’ve made my admiration for Jeff Nichols very clear lately, and was happy to see another role for Joel Edgerton, someone I’ve come to pay attention to more and more. This was a historic, landmark case for American civil rights, and Nichols is the perfect person to capture the nuance of the story without giving us a cookie cutter courtroom procedural that would have threatened to zap the life out of what remained, until the end, simply a powerful love story. The love is all that ever mattered. There is a two-shot of Loving and his lawyer in the final fifteen minutes of the film that speaks volumes. When he refuses to attend the Supreme Court hearing of his case, Richard says to his lawyer “Tell the judge I love my wife.” It really is that simple to him, as it should be to all of us. Why should anything else matter?
The production design here is absolutely spot-on, and the lighting is a treat. The frames are composed beautifully, and the slower pace often doesn’t register because you are taking in the same gorgeous scenery (juxtaposed against the ugliness of humanity) as the characters, and noticing all of that beauty may have the same effect on you as it does on them. We want things to be better. The final shot is brilliant, as the Loving family sits triumphantly at the site of their new house, Richard building it brick by brick just as he had set out to, on the same spot of land he promised Mildred would host her home. It took years of determination, but they succeeded. They changed America. Through the sheer power of love. And with the expanse of the field in the background, it is put into perspective how endless the possibilities are for them. As they are for us.
What a time to be alive.