HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:82
There have been quite a few rulings by the supreme court that have been hotly contested over the years, but very few are as important as the “Loving vs. Virginia” back in 1967. For those of you who don’t remember, “Loving vs. Virginia” was an ENORMOUS ruling that over ruled the state discrimination laws regarding inter racial marriage. Held right during the furor of the civil rights movement, it was long after slavery and shortly after segregation was stopped and finalized one of the most important anti-discrimination rulings in the history of the civil rights movement. “Loving” is the tale of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Loving and their quest for justice after the state of Virginia ruled their marriage in violation of state anti-interracial marriage laws.
What initially clued me in to “Loving” was that fact that Jeff Nichols was attached to the project, and I have HUGE respect for the man’s short list of directorial works. “Take Shelter” was the first movie I ever saw of his (and I’ve never seen his freshman film “Shotgun Stories” as of yet) and was instantly floored by his languid pacing and very careful use of character development. “Mud” is still one of my favorite films of the last 5 years, and while “Midnight Special” wasn’t his BEST work, it still was an enthralling watch. With his taking on the story of “Loving vs. Virginia” I knew we weren’t in for your typical court room drama. Nothing Jeff Nichols does is typical, so I strapped myself in and prepared for an introspective look at the famous couple and was NOT disappointed in the least.
Richard and Mildred Loving (played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga respectively) have just gotten married in DC and have moved back to their home state of Virginia to settle down and raise a family. Things appear to be going alright until hardnosed Sheriff Brooks (Marton Csokas) busts the couple for being illegally married in the state of Virginia. While it’s 1958 and the slaves have been freed for QUITE some time, there are still quite a few state laws on the books that discriminate against them in Virginia (and actually several other states in the Union as well), one of them being that a white person and a black person could not be married. The only way for the Lovings to get off the hook was for them to either get a divorce/annulment, or to move out of the state of Virginia for no less than 25 years.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=90746[/img]Naturally the couple decided to take the latter of the two options and the pair moved to DC to have their first child and live in relative peace. You know how they say “home is where the heart is”? Well, Richard and Mildred’s heart were firmly planted in Virginia, so the couple packs back up and moves back to their home town once again and try and lay low. Sadly, someone once again reports the couple and back to DC they’re forced to go. This time the couple is ready to do ANYTHING to get back home and just be left alone, but they know that if they go back again, their goose is cooked. However, we’re now in the mid 60s, right in the middle of Martin Luther King’s historic quest for justice and the ACLU is working on overdrive to bring cases like this to the Supreme court. Sending out rookie lawyer Bernard Cohen (Nick Kroll in one of his few non-comedic roles) the ACLU is now working with the Loving family in a hail marry play. Get the case to the supreme court and have the ban against interracial marriage take care of once and for all. Not just for the Loving family, but for EVERY person of color across the entire nation.
Jeff Nichols does exactly what I thought he would do, and that is tell a very languidly paced drama that focuses on the people themselves vs. the drama. From the very beginning we’re intimately introduced to Richard and Mildred Loving. Every step of the way, every scene and act of the film has one singular purpose. To let us feel like the couple are living, breathing human beings. This has always been Nichols strong suit and he plays to the crowd like a master. The film actually shies away from the court room proceedings, and except for a few moments in front of the judges, very little time is devoted to making this some thrilling drama with lawyers shouting out ultimatums and fiery speeches. This is not that type of film. Instead we see how the trial and the proceedings effect Richard and Mildred, from the first confusing moments when they’re told that they have to pack up and leave, down to those last few moments where they get the call that the supreme court has ruled in their favor.
Not to sell Nichols short, but this couldn’t have been done with Edgerton and Negga’s chemistry. Joel Edgerton has always been a very distinct actor, but he steps outside of his wheelhouse to play Mr. Loving, and he does so with startling accuracy if my research is to be believed. Nichols had him dye his hair and eyebrows ice blond like the real-life man he’s playing, and combines it with a very earthy feeling personality that makes Joel almost unrecognizable (the blond eyebrows makes his really hard to recognize at times. Ruth Negga is not a huge star at the moment, but she’s gaining traction quickly and is most known for her work in the TV show “Preacher” opposite Dominic Cooper. However, she knocks the character of Mildred Loving out of the park with a very down to earth, but impassioned portrayal of the simple house wife. While there are a few flaws in the film and a decided lack of showmanship, the two actors make for a decidedly delightful pair. Hey, even Nick Kroll managed to surprise me with a well done and very organic performance as the ACLU lawyer who made this all happen.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=90754[/img]One of the things that really endeared me to the film was the use of classic 35mm film instead of going for an all digital shoot. It gives the movie a very organic and earthy feeling that pairs itself wonderfully with the period piece nature of the movie. Colors are warm and inviting, with honey overtones and a wonderful amount of primary saturation thrown in. The dusty farm country that they come from is appropriately earthy looking, but also spotted with luscious green fields and the pale white of a whitewashed farmhouse to boot. Fine detail is excellent from the disturbingly white eyebrows and hair of Richard Loving, down to the ever-increasing worry lines of his wife. You can see the flaking of the white wash along the farmhouse wall and the grease and dirt under Richard’s nails are noticeable even when not focusing on them. Blacks are near impeccable, but I did notice some color banding around headlights in the dark or a flashlight beam cutting through the night. Nothing overt, but just noticeable enough to be a slight annoyance.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=90762[/img]Being a very slow paced drama, “Loving” features a naturally dialog centric track with a strong presence in the front part of the soundstage. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix is more than adequate to handle the simple structure of the film and even sprinkles in some good surround usage here and there. David Wingo’s score is the most prevalent use of the surrounds, but we do get some of the ambient background sounds of the busy city or the bustling bar where Richard drinks himself into a stupor in during the 3rd act. LFE is tight and clean, but not exactly a major player in the mix. While “Loving” has a fairly basic sound design, it is well nuanced and does everything required of it without incident.
• Making Loving - Featurette
• A Loving Ensemble - Featurette
• Loving v. Virginia - Featurette
• Virginia: A Loving Backdrop - Featurette
• Audio Commentary with Director Jeff Nichols
“Loving” is not a PERFECT film by Nichols (I think his only near perfect film is “Mud”), but he makes an enthralling film that doesn’t dabble in melodrama or massive courtroom battles to make an intense and visceral drama. I still chuckle at Nichols’ love of using Michael Shannon in just about EVERY film he makes (Michael shows up for a brief stint as the “Life Magazine” photographer who gets them some much needed publicity), but overall “Loving” is a fantastic film about one of the most important judicial rulings in the last 100 years. Audio and video are great and the extras actually have some real meat to them. Definitely worth watching.
Starring: Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton, Marton Csokas
Directed by: Jeff Nichols
Written by: Jeff Nichols
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish DTS 5.1
Runtime: 123 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 7th, 2017
Buy Loving On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Great Watch
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