Sunday, November 27, 2016

Loving [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB () (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Loving [2016] (written and directed by Jeff Nichols [wikip] [IMDb]) is a lovely, unpretentious picture about a quiet couple of rural Virginia introverts who nonetheless helped change history.

Mildred (played by Ruth Negga) and Richard (played by Joel Edgarton) Loving were born and grew-up in a part of rural Virginia so marginalized / so far "from the beaten path" that they honestly did not "see color."  Blacks and whites, all poor, mixed also with long departed (expelled / wiped out) Native Americans, lived (and loved) side-by-side in / around their hamlet of Central Point in Caroline County, Virginia since basically forever.  Honestly, the only "crime" that two committed was that they decided to try to make their union official -- a Marriage.  And that then caused them their grief.

For at the time, 1958, it was illegal for a couple of differing races to marry in the State of Virginia.  Yes, up until the Civil Rights Era, Virginia and the rest of the Jim Crow South had its OWN versions of the Nazi Era Nuremberg Laws / South African Apartheid Laws -- in Virginia the statute at issue was its Racial Integrity Act of 1924 which criminalized the marriage of a white person with a person of color.

So to get Married, the two had to go North to Washington, D.C. to do so.  They then returned to their home in Central Point, VA to continue their lives, believing themselves to be now married, only to have their home raided by the Country Sheriff and their men (at 2 AM) and arrested for violating said Virginia "Racial Integrity" statute.  FACING JAIL TIME (mind you Mildred was pregnant), their lawyer pled them a deal: In return for pleading GUILTY to violating the statute forbidding inter-racial marriage, their SENTENCE was suspended ON THE CONDITION THAT THEY LEAVE THE STATE AND NOT RETURN FOR 25 YEARS, if they returned, they'd have to serve time in prison.

The two moved out a cousin of Mildred's who lived in Washington, D.C.  But being country folks, living in the city was never a good fit for them and they did pine to return.  After the famous Civil Rights March on Washington in 1963, Mildred wrote then President Kennedy's brother Robert Kennedy, then Attorney General, for help.  He referred her letter to the ACLU which then contacted Mildred and Robert to take-up their case.  The rest of the film takes it from there ...

Among the "textural aspects" that this film gets right is its presentation of the relationship between the Lovings and the young, enthusiastic, perhaps still necessarily naive lawyers Bernie Cohen and Phil Hirschkop (played respectively by Nick Kroll and Jon Bass) from the ACLU who represented them.  The two lawyers saw themselves as Fighting Injustice (which they were) and Making History (which they ended up doing).  But Mildred and Richard Loving just wanted ... to go home.

Honestly, a lovely, understated film about a truly momentous moment in the struggle for Racial Equality in this country shown ... truly "with feet on the ground."

Great job folks, great job!

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