Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

"Despite Nichols’s softly-softly approach, the film packs a powerful punch, constantly reminding us of just how recent these historical injustices are." | Photo: © Ben Rothstein © Big Beach, LLC

Jeff Nichols continues to prove himself a master of subtlety, nuance and understatement in tackling this civil rights drama about an interracial couple which led to milestone change in the law.

Rather than take a traditional route within the framework of a courtroom exposé or a social thriller he chooses (wisely as it turns out) to concentrate on the couple themselves, Richard and Mildred Loving, their friends and family and only latterly brings in the lawyers.

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The couple marry in Washington in 1958, immediately falling foul of Virginia’s State Racial Integrity Act and leading to them being arrested in the dead of night and sent to jail pending a hearing. They plead guilty to avoid a prison term and have to agree to exile themselves from their home state for 25 years in exchange for suspended sentences.

Nichols observes it all in a matter of fact fashion, eschewing making the cops obvious villains or even vilifying the system in an obvious way.

The narrative unfolds through the actions of the couple, their three children and the relatives who try to provide support from an enforced distance.

After Mildred writes about their plight to Robert Kennedy they find themselves chosen by the American Civil Liberties Union as an ideal example to take to the Supreme Court to establish racial quality on a legal basis. The two lawyers (Nick Kroll and Jon Bass) obviously relish the prospect of making legal history while paying attention to the sensibilities of a couple not seeking the limelight. When the case reaches the Supreme Court the couple prefer to stay at home and await the outcome rather than subjecting themselves to the glare of publicity.

Partly because they are such private individuals, the basis of what makes their relationship tick remains somewhat obscure yet the performances of Ruth Negga and Joes Edgerton emerge as entirely convincing.

Despite Nichols’s softly-softly approach, the film packs a powerful punch, constantly reminding us of just how recent these historical injustices are.

It is immensely satisfying to watch a film that gives its audience credit for intelligence and perspicacity without any need to slam home the message.

Reviewed on: 16 May 2016
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Story of an interracial couple in 1950s Virginia who face the wrath of the law for getting married.
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Director: Jeff Nichols

Writer: Jeff Nichols

Starring: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Marton Csokas, Ruth Negga, Alano Miller, Nick Kroll, Jon Bass, Bill Camp, David Jensen, Quinn McPherson, Michael Abbott Jr., Sharon Blackwood, Terri Abney, Christopher Mann, Coley Campany

Year: 2016

Runtime: 123 minutes

Country: US, UK


Cannes 2016

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