Negga ra­di­ant in evoca­tive drama about love across racial di­vide in 50s Amer­ica

Bray People - - ENTERTAINMENT -

LOV­ING (12A)

THE hu­man heart re­fuses to be con­strained by ra­tio­nal­ity or rea­son.

We are all slaves to those 10 ounces of throb­bing mus­cle, savour­ing ev­ery flut­ter of plea­sure in the knowl­edge that, in­evitably, there will be mur­murs of pain as we mourn those clos­est to us.

Lov­ing is a hand­somely crafted drama about two mild-man­nered, yet coura­geous souls from op­po­site sides of the racial di­vide in late 1950s Virginia, who fol­lowed their hearts in strict de­fi­ance of the Racial In­tegrity Act, which crim­i­nal­ized in­ter­ra­cial mar­riages in the state.

The unerring de­vo­tion of Richard Lov­ing to his wife Mil­dred, in the face of fierce op­po­si­tion from some friends and neigh­bours, led to a land­mark 1967 le­gal rul­ing by the US Supreme Court that fi­nally over­turned decades of prej­u­dice.

This re­mark­able court­room bat­tle against big­otry and bu­reau­cracy pro­vides writer-di­rec­tor Jeff Ni­chols with a deep emo­tional core that com­pels us to root for Richard and Mil­dred when all hope is lost.

Ni­chols’ script draws in­spi­ra­tion from Nancy Buirski’s cel­e­brated 2011 doc­u­men­tary the Lov­ing Story and in­vents some pe­riph­eral char­ac­ters for the sake of dra­matic ex­pe­di­ency, with­out weak­en­ing the emo­tional wal­lop of the film’s un­der­stated fi­nal act.

Con­struc­tion worker Richard Lov­ing (Joel Edger­ton) falls gid­dily in love with fam­ily friend Mil­dred Jeter (Ruth Negga).

When she falls preg­nant, the cou­ple de­cide to marry.

For­bid­den from con­sum­mat­ing their re­la­tion­ship in Virginia, Richard and Mil­dred drive to Wash­ing­ton DC and re­turn home with a mar­riage li­cence, which they proudly dis­play on the wall of their home.

Sher­iff Brooks (Marton Csokas) ar­rives soon af­ter with his deputies and ar­rests the Lov­ings.

They are even­tu­ally re­leased, but the cou­ple must pub­licly keep their dis­tance.

‘All we got to do is keep to our­selves for a while and this’ll blow over,’ Richard ten­derly as­sures Mil­dred.

Alas, his op­ti­mism is mis­placed and the cou­ple nar­rowly avoids a one-year stint be­hind bars by agree­ing that they will not re­turn to Virginia to­gether for 25 years.

The case even­tu­ally at­tracts the in­ter­est of Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union lawyer Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) and trail­blaz­ing civil rights lawyer Phil Hirschkop (Jon Bass).

Mean­while, free­lance pho­tog­ra­pher Grey Vil­let (Michael Shan­non) is com­mis­sioned to cap­ture an in­ti­mate por­trait of the Lov­ings’ home life for TIME mag­a­zine.

Lov­ing sen­si­tively recre­ates a bat­tle for jus­tice waged by two qui­etly spo­ken peo­ple, who changed the course of his­tory.

Edger­ton is mes­meris­ing as the stoic hus­band, whose only in­struc­tion to his le­gal team is to ‘ tell the judge I love my wife’.

Os­car nom­i­nee Negga is sim­i­larly ra­di­ant as the emo­tional rock in the eye of a le­gal storm.

Di­rec­tor Ni­chols beau­ti­fully evokes the era, al­low­ing his cam­era to fo­cus on the cou­ple’s tribu­la­tions against a back­drop of metic­u­lous pe­riod de­tail. RAT­ING: 7.5/10

Ruth Negga as Mil­dred Lov­ing and Joel Edger­ton as Richard Lov­ing in Lov­ing.

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