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Film review: Loving

RELIEF: Ruth Negga, right and Joel Edgerton on the left as Mildred and Richard Loving who finally triumphed over racist segregation laws (photo credit: Ben Rothstein / Focus Features)

LOVING, BASED on the lives of Richard and Mildred Loving who reluctantly became national heroes for their victory over US segregationalist laws in the late sixties, is now on general release in UK cinemas.

A reignited interest in the Loving's tumultuous court battles, prison sentences and anger-inducing experiences trying to justify the validity of their marriage has introduced the couple to a new generation, who are today able to point to two 'ordinary' people who changed laws in the US forever. Before the case of Loving v. Virginia was heard in 1967, it was illegal for people of different races to marry and to have children together. This was just one of the many side-effects of American slavery's racist and warped ideas about black people being sub-human and somehow 'contagious', which left their mark on public policy long after a nationwide abolition in the 1860s.

It is against this backdrop that part African-American, part Native Indian Mildred (Ruth Negga) and white, blue-eyed Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton), play out their emotional turmoil and trauma which is shared and absorbed by both of their families; who live in a small rural community seemingly oblivious to the concept of segregation or racial hatred.


REAL LOVING: Mildred, Richard and their three children; on which the movie is based (photo credit: NBC)

We see their sleepy town utopia just once punctuated by non-threatening stares from out-of-towners who have turned-up to watch a drag race, however nothing compares to the brutish and predatory policemen who turn-up in the middle of the night to pull the couple out of bed. The heart-racing scenes of drama tinged with the threat of violence seem to begin after this arrest, the result of state authorities somehow catching wind of the couple's trip to liberated Washington to get married.

A sensory feast from the very start, Loving is very-good at taking audiences deep within the viewpoints and motivations of Mildred and Richard as well as their distraught loved-ones as they begin to live life 'on the run', both literally and socially in varying degrees. Nichols successfully chooses to make his points to the viewer like this, rather than taking them too 'wide' with anything that distracts from the universally-relatable human impact of being repeatedly torn away from one's home for reasons ground in unfathomable logic.

Ethiopian-Irish actor Negga portrays a young woman of few words who silently reminds onlookers that she is simply in love and patiently submits to her husband's will, whilst also being a driving force for creating change in their lives. Negga helps to endear us to Mildred with her big puppy-dog eyes and feminine 1950s styling, a beauty which has been noted by Vogue magazine who recently featured her as cover girl. The coveted cover is a mere drop in the ocean of her achievements, which include a nominated for Best Actress at this year's Oscar's.

Loving gives us a sense that we're watching a carefully-crafted slice of life, utilising all that's good about independent film and combining it with a deep commitment from the actors and a slow climb to a big victory for the underdog, which provide all the sheen of a Hollywood feel-good flick.

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