“Tell the Judge I love my wife!”

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Fabian Brims, Staff Writer

Civil rights dramas are quite popular these days. Following ’12 Years a Slave’, ‘Selma’, ‘All the Way’ and ‘Birth of a Nation’, ‘Loving’ is the latest one to come out on the big screen. It has a slightly different approach and resembles the courtroom scenes in ‘Free State of Jones’, where a mixed race couple has to fight a legal battle for their love.

In 1958 Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga) and Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) are married. That doesn’t sound like anything special except that Mildred is African-American and Richard is Caucasian, and interracial marriages are prohibited by law in the state of Virginia. The two are arrested and thrown into prison, even though Mildred is pregnant. A judge sets them free, only with the condition that they immediately leave the state and do not return for 25 years.  However the Lovings don’t want to accept the verdict and sue the state of Virginia. The case even makes it into the U.S. Supreme Court, and the outcome has the ability to change the whole country, years before the Civil Rights Act is introduced.

‘Loving’ is a quiet drama that completely relies on its actors, and they couldn’t be any better. Joel Edgerton once again proves how versatile he is not only by his appearance. His acting is strong even though his character Richard is not a man of many words. The trouble surrounding the case is too overwhelming for him when all he wants is to live in peace with his wife. Ruth Negga, who also had a small role in ’12 Years a Slave’, masters her first lead in a feature-film like she has never done anything else. Surely, both will be nominated for several awards, and we will see them in many more roles in the future, as their careers should skyrocket from these stunning performances.

The same applies to director Jeff Nichols, who also wrote the script. So far he mostly directed independent movies like ‘Take Shelter’ or ‘Mud’ and after this, he shouldn’t have issues convincing major studios to green-light a bigger project. Cinematography and art-direction are also outstanding. The film crew recreated a realistic and accurate view on how America looked like in 1958 and the following years.

The crew also managed to portray the circumstances of these days when segregation was protected by law. The injustice people of color had to live with mustn’t be forgotten, and a movie like this reminds us and shows at the same time a peaceful way out. This message reaches the public with perfect timing and it demonstrates that the fight for equality is still not over, almost 50 years later. Unlike other civil rights dramas, ‘Loving’ is able to deliver this message without showing the brutal violence people had to endure these days (and sadly, often still do). It has a strong message, that everyone has the power to change history, and this gets even more powerful by leading with a good example.

‘Loving’ is a movie that stays true to its title, and it’s a compelling, gripping and eye-opening drama. This is a movie the people need to watch in such uncertain times, leading by example with a positive message.

Loving (2016); Written & directed by Jeff Nichols; with Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Michael Shannon; PG-13; 123 min.

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