Hot Press - - Critical Mass -

Di­rected by Jeff Ni­chols. Star­ring Ruth Negga, Joel Edger­ton, Marton Csokas, Nick Kroll, Terri Ab­ney, Alano Miller, Jon Bass, Michael Shan­non. 123 mins. In cin­e­mas Fe­bru­ary 3. 3/5 RUTH NEGGA SHINES IN DIG­NI­FIED DRAMA ABOUT LOVE AND RACE In Jeff Ni­chols’ film, Lov­ing is both a verb and a noun. Joel Edger­ton and Os­carnom­i­nated Ruth Negga play Richard and Mil­dred Lov­ing, the in­ter­ra­cial cou­ple at the cen­tre of the 1967 Supreme Court case Lov­ing v. Virginia, which ruled mis­ce­gena­tion laws of the time to be un­con­sti­tu­tional. Af­ter mar­ry­ing, the cou­ple were forced to leave Virginia and move to Wash­ing­ton, threat­ened with prison if they ever re­turned.

Far from a fist-pound­ing, message-spew­ing court­room drama, Lov­ing is an in­ti­mate por­trait of two very or­di­nary peo­ple, no­table not for their pas­sion­ate po­lit­i­cal zeal, but rather their quiet hu­mil­ity.The two ac­tors put in beau­ti­fully nu­anced per­for­mances for char­ac­ters who, by na­ture, say very lit­tle.

Edger­ton taps into a spe­cific ex­pres­sion of ru­ral mas­culin­ity that’s strong, but also so hum­ble that he’ll never meet any­one’s eye. Mean­while, Negga is beau­ti­ful in her un­ex­pressed heart­break, a qui­etly joy­ful woman who loses her­self when torn from her fam­ily and friends. Mil­dred’s love is ex­pressed through acts of kind­ness, and a shy but ra­di­ant smile – a smile that

dis­ap­pears when the cou­ple move to dis­mally grey Wash­ing­ton.

Mil­dred’s lone­li­ness and sad­ness at the in­jus­tice of the cou­ple’s ex­ile are pal­pa­ble, and makes their de­ci­sion to sneak back to the idyl­li­cally golden Virginia and even­tu­ally pur­sue le­gal help feel not just un­der­stand­able, but nec­es­sary. In the midst of all the rage and dis­cord, the quiet in­ti­macy that Ni­chols brings to a po­ten­tially melo­dra­matic and flashily Os­car-bait­ing film is ex­tra­or­di­nary.

How­ever, af­ter a slow two hours, the overly po­lite re­straint feels naïve – or at least, pre­ma­ture. In this cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal land­scape, Ni­chols’ con­fi­dence that there’s no need to get vis­i­bly an­gry at racism, or to give the au­di­ence some emo­tional cathar­sis, feels mis­guided. Here’s hop­ing the world im­proves so his ide­al­ism is re­warded.

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