Monday, December 12, 2016
LOVING: A QUIET REVOLUTION
Directed by Jeff Nichols and starring Ruth Negga and Joel Egerton as Mildred and Richard Loving.
The bravest thing about LOVING is how quiet and understated it is. The 1967 court case that ended Constitutional prohibition to interracial marriage, that declared marriage a fundamental right, never raises its voice, as it were. It decisively turns its back on Big Moments, Violent Confrontations, and Epic Battles. Rather, Ruth Negga’s and Joel Egerton’s performances of the interracial couple who violated anti-miscegenation laws in Virginia, encountered a particularly quiet but vicious bigotry, were forced to relocate to Washington, D.C. under penalty of imprisonment, and faced potential branding as having bastard children if they lost their case before the Supreme Court, are subtle and understated. Richard, in particular, is a man of few words and reluctance to be a public hero. Their lawyer, Bernard Cohen, is inexperienced. Virginia’s denial of their case is never shown. The Supreme Court case before the Warren Court is dispatched in mere minutes and a few words. No victory dances are permitted, no public demonstrations are depicted. The couple, back home in Virginia, simply go back to their lives, their children at play in the house that Richard has been seen building throughout the film. Of their later lives, only a few titles inform us that Richard died six years after the decision from an auto accident and Mildred never married, dying in 2008.
Indeed, in the one rare moment when Richard has doubts about the ten-year ordeal he and his wife are enduring, the impact is tremendous.
Seldom have the movies given us a private and public drama with such tremendous consequences and with so little fanfare.