In 1958, a young couple in Virginia got married and was sentenced to prison and exile because of it. What followed would change the constitution of the country and do away with laws against interracial marriage. A true story.
To me this is a prime example of a film that probably shouldn’t have been made. Not that the story isn’t one worth telling and knowing. It is, immensely. It’s just that even though some things are extremely significant, doesn’t mean they translate into a good film. It’s not bad, even “pretty good,” sometimes but a true to life movie about these events could probably never live up to the actual significance. This one certainly does not.
The Lovings (yes, their name was Loving) are rather passive here. Richard (Joel Edgerton) more so than his wife Mildred (Ruth Negga), but still neither “do” much. Because there’s not much to do. When caught and convicted, they try their best to fight what was being done to them, but they have nothing on their side. They dare to break the law on several occasions, quietly and without bravado – their bravest and most daring thing was simply living their life as any normal person should be allowed. Again – a significant statement right there, but not an interesting movie. Even the big case that carries their name and changed history seemed to go on without them – using them as a very important pawn, but not much more. Not an interesting movie.
Negga is lovely and real and the emotional heart of this film – a film that should be bursting at the seams with emotion, but only once or twice were my cardiovascular threads tugged and usually I’m a pretty easy target. Edgerton, though, almost perpetually has a confused scowl on his face in a way that almost seems like Richard is being played as a simpleton, which I don’t think was the intention at all. It’s obvious he was a noble, hard working man who would do anything for his wife – but not through any nuance of the role.
This is a hard film to put down, because it is so earnest and has a beautiful message and beautiful moments – yet at the same time, it fails to evoke any of the importance, urgency, and emotion it should to convey this story – a story probably too straightforward to be a movie.
It took me a while to really put a finger on why this movie just didn’t work for me, and I’m not sure I’ve quite got it yet, but it just seems to lack something in the soul department. In an admirable effort to be respectful and stay true to life, the movie is not over dramatic, it’s not sensationalized (though there are a few moments I thought it was going to dive headfirst in that direction before abruptly moving on), but it’s also not fully fleshed out in the way that it needs to be to communicate to the audience what it’s trying to say, and so it succeeds in some ways but failed to connect with me.
Mrs. Hamster did not screen this film
Brother Hamster did not screen this film
My rating: Two out of five hats
Loving is in limited release, engaging DC area theaters November 11