Love and marriage by Richard Jones

LovingA look at Loving (PG)…

THOSE of us of a certain age can well remember the upheavals and violence in America during the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s.

So it’s salutary to reflect on Jeff Nichols’ movie where the all-pervading southern states’ backlash against mixed-race marriages is highlighted.

In 1958 Richard Loving (Aussie Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga) are living together in Caroline County, Virginia, when they’re arrested in a midnight police raid.

Under Virginian law interracial unions are illegal and had been since 1691 when the state first passed an anti-miscegenation law.

So the local sheriff (Martin Csokas) and his deputies break into the couple’s home – in a poor white area – and cart them off to prison.

Now because he’s white Richard, a brickie by day and part-time mechanic, isn’t detained for long. But African-American Mildred (who’s pregnant) is and on his meagre wage Richard has to employ local attorney (Bill Camp) to arrange for her release and organise their court hearing.

The local judge waives jail time on one condition: that Richard and Mildred leave the state of Virginia.

And not just for a year or two. A quarter of a century. Yes, 25 years.

Off they go to Washington, DC, where they’re officially married. Richard finds work and Mildred gives birth to three children. Edgerton perhaps overdoes the squinty-eyed look and the hunched-over stance.

Okay, he does have to work hard in trying conditions: summer heat and winter snow. And he’s physically powerful as director Nichols shows us in a lot of rear-view shots of Edgerton’s muscly thighs

But Negga is outstanding as Mildred. Her eyes follow her husband everywhere and Nichols’ wide-screen cameras capture her loving nature brilliantly.

When they decide to move, the family returns home to Caroline County from Washington in the dead of night.

The children are still quite young.

The couple know that further court battles await and every now and then Richard has to sit on the verandah of their ‘secret’ rural house, shotgun in lap, awaiting the possible arrival of threatening rednecks.

It’s when they meet an up-and-coming civil rights lawyer (Nick Kroll) after Mildred had written to US Attorney General Robert Kennedy that the court action really warms up.

It’s the sixties now and the more socially adept Mildred seems to know a hearing with the US Supreme Court awaits.

And even though they don’t attend in person – Richard isn’t comfortable about the looming trend-defining courtroom drama – Mildred quietly awaits the phone call which ultimately could change their lives.

Ruth Negga was one of the five nominees for the Best Actress Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards.


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