Tuesday, November 29, 2016

[Review] Loving

With acclaimed southern tales like Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, and Mud, director Jeff Nichols has established himself as a big-time talent in indie cinema. Earlier this year, he continued the streak by shifting slightly with the sci-fi tinged Midnight Special. His latest film, Loving, is a more grounded, based-on-real-events historical drama entailing a supreme court decision on interracial marriage.

Beginning in Virginia 1958 (not that long ago, is it?), the story revolves around Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), a kind and reserved couple who are building a house and expecting a child. Their content life is maddeningly interrupted when authorities break up their marriage and throw them in jail. From there, the two fight the legal system just to be together.

Suiting for the spirit of the central characters, Nichols takes a quiet but distressful, understated yet affecting approach. The lead performances from Edgerton and Negga are superb--both displaying impressive sensitivity and gracefulness. As far as their emotions and thoughts, so much is shown strictly through the eyes and facial expressions, and in a film of this nature--that's all that's needed. In a surprising casting choice, oddball comic Nick Kroll takes on the role of a freshman civil rights lawyer, and he does a solid job. In a not so surprising casting choice, Michael Shannon shows up as an earnest, likable magazine reporter (because it wouldn't be a Nichols film without him).

Some sections of the narrative feel more like lulls than story developments, as they mostly work to convey passages of time. But it all eventually builds to something major. Something only rightful. The film's themes of division, injustice, and changing the system still resonate during current times.

Loving. How apt a last name. How apt a title. How necessary a film for today.

* 8.5/10 *

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