Embrace The Simplicity: Our Review of ‘Loving’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Movies, Theatrical, TIFF 2016 by - November 11, 2016
Embrace The Simplicity: Our Review of ‘Loving’

There’s something truly next level about finding the genuine power in pure simplicity.  Loving is truly the kind of film that you’d expect to hit you over the head with overtly powerful imagery as it makes its statement but instead sits in the quiet realities of why events like this took place and why the right thing always ended up winning in the end.

Loving celebrates and chronicles the real-life courage and commitment of an interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), who married and then spent the next nine years fighting for the right to live as a family in their hometown. Their civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia, went all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1967 reaffirmed the very foundation of the right to marry – and their love story has become an inspiration to couples ever since.

In what is essentially the defacto kick off for award contending films in 2016, Loving manages something that makes it so unique, special and able to stand out from all the rest.  Rather than play with the narrative in these grandiose and dramatic flourishes, writer/director Jeff Nichols actually lets it work in the quiet realities that these people were dealing with and aspiring towards.

As the story quietly drops us into small town Virginia and we meet Richard and Mildred for the very first time, Jeff Nichols doesn’t shy away from the undercurrents of the time as we see them get longer than necessary stares from the primarily white population being affectionate towards each other in public.  It’s never spoken about, but the tension is there and that is what makes it feel so salient.  Nichols through his writing and his direction isn’t trying to hit you over the head with this story and how important it is but instead gives us what is there at the core.  The right for two people to love each other, regardless of what anyone else in town thinks about it all.

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It’s never about making a political statement and it’s rather a heartfelt example of how genuine emotion rises above all of that.  Nichols’ never paints this couple as heroes or activists, just as people and through the simplicity of the two of them sitting together on the couch or on the patio at night it is clear.  Their lives are about each other and no one else’s, that’s really the way it should be and that’s where the power of this film truly lies.  The writing is smart and smooth allowing us to transition through the narrative that is this period in these people’s lives, and while there is the occasional lapse in logic the movie stays grounded in the power of these two supremely powerful performances.

Ruth Negga plays Mildred Loving to near perfection in what should be a breakout year for her after performances in the TV series Preacher & Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  She’s a small town woman who wants to marry her sweetheart and start a family, with her family and loved ones all close by wrapped up in the magic of what can make small towns so damn appealing and when she gets thrust out of it there isn’t a show display of histrionics, there is a slow and gradual decent into a real depression until an accident with her son snaps her out of it and they move home to fight for their rights to be a family in the land that they call home.  Joel Edgerton on the other side of that coin isn’t out to make statement with his character or with his performance he is a simple and humble man who at the beginning of the film can’t shake everyone from law enforcement to even his own immediate family telling him that he simply should have “Know Better” then to marry Mildred.  He fights for all of that my maintaining it all and living his life on terms that may not necessarily be perfect but they get him what he wants.  Edgerton even captures the man’s hesitation to get lawyers involved and bring the case to the supreme court but it’s his faith in his union that carries him through and it makes for a subtle but incredibly powerful performance.  The likes of Nick Kroll, Martin Csokas, Michael Shannon and a few others all come in with some strong performances but it never overshadows the real people that were at the center of it all.loving

This film can truly be summed up in a scene towards the end of the film, after the Loving’s have lived with the fear of jail and persecution by moving back to their home state and Nick Kroll’s lawyer character invites them to the Supreme Court to see the case argued, Richard refuses and Mildred goes along with it.  Kroll’s character is baffled at this response but ultimately accepts it and then asks Richard if he wants him to say anything on his behalf…and what he says just hammered me.

“Tell them that I love my wife”.

Boom…that’s what Loving is, and in these days of social stress and strife where words matter more than ever, this film is such a beautiful statement on the innate right that we all have to have love in our lives and more importantly in our hearts.

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David Voigt, has been a lover of cinema all his life and an actual underpaid critic for a solid 5 years covering everything that the city of Toronto has to offer. He was a content manager in video distribution industry before that and his love of all things cinema goes back to his first moments in awe looking up at the big screen. His 12 years of experience on the home entertainment side of the business have provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, David should be your only stop to find out about the best in film, not only in Toronto, but worldwide.