From well-known independent movie director Jeff Nichols who directed 2012’s Mud and 2016’s Midnight Special, Loving is a subtle yet beautiful film based on the amazing true story of one of the most important civil rights victories of the 20th century. It follows an interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving, from the small town of Central Point, Virginia who were married in 1958 but faced legal trouble for being married in a state that forbid interracial marriage. As emphasized by the understated performances of Joel Edgerton who plays Richard and Ruth Negga who plays Mildred, the poor and largely uneducated couple were simple country folks who just wanted to spend time together as a married couple. Due to the law in Virginia, they were almost immediately arrested and thrown in jail after they married in Washington, D.C. where interracial marriage was legal. The extremely unsympathetic local sheriff and judge ordered them to leave the state or face long imprisonment. As a result, they settled in an impoverished neighborhood of Washington, D.C. where they raised their three children. Eventually, after several years, Mildred feared for the safety of her children, and the family surreptitiously moved back to Virginia to be nearby their extended relatives. Hiding away from authorities, the ACLU got involved and hired a team of lawyers to overturn the anti-interracial marriage laws. Through their efforts, the Supreme Court decided in their favor in 1967 and resulted in the legalization of interracial marriage throughout the entire nation. The film was remarkably effective in showing the quietly affectionate and humble couple by following a slow and subdued plot line. Both characters really did not speak much and were hesitant to take legal recourse because it would complicate their lives. The nuanced acting performances gave the audience the impression that this was a couple in great pain and cared for nothing more than sharing their love with one another. Although it revolved around a landmark civil rights case, the filmmaker made the movie less of a legal drama and more of a character study about unquestioned yet, at the time, rather unusual love. Overall, I found the film to be an emotionally powerful cinematic experience that tells a truly historic story about overcoming racial injustice. It especially resonates with contemporary audiences since it follows the equally significant Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage as well as the continued racial friction in the United States.
Richard Perry Loving was born in 1933 to impoverished white parents in Central Point, Virginia, and Mildred Delores Jeter Loving was born in 1939 in the same small town to parents who were of mixed African American and Native American heritage. After Mildred became pregnant at the age of 18, they married in Washington, D.C. in June 1958 but were arrested a few weeks later in July after returning to Virginia where interracial marriage and cohabitation was outlawed under the Racial Integrity Act of 1924. They received a sentence of one year in jail in early January 1959, the sentence was suspended for 25 years if they moved out of the state. They lived the next several years in Washington, D.C. with their three children Donald, Peggy, and Sidney. Tired of being far away from their family and the difficulties of living in the city, Mildred wrote a letter in 1964 to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy who referred them to a team of American Civil Liberties Union lawyers led by Bernard S. Cohen. After years of unfavorable judgments and appeals in Virginia and federal court, the United States Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren on June 12, 1967 overturned the 1883 decision Pace v. Alabama and ruled that so-called anti-miscegenation were unconstitutional. At the time of the ruling, Virginia along with fifteen other Southern states had laws forbidding interracial marriage. The landmark case Loving v. Virginia became the legal precedent for the more recent same-sex marriage court cases, including Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015 that legalized it nationwide. Neither of them would live to see their legacy because Richard died at the age of 41 in 1975 following a traffic accident with a drunk driver, and Mildred died at the age of 68 in 2008 from pneumonia.