The story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, whose challenge of their anti-miscegenation arrest for their marriage in Virginia led to a legal battle that would end at the US Supreme Court.
America’s dark civil rights history has made for some of the most compelling historical dramas put to screen. Selma, Malcolm X and 12 Years a Slave are just a few to win Oscars for the efforts in educating Americans on a subject they like to avoid.
The captivating story of interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving was unknown to me, and in the hands of one of my favourite writer-directors working at the moment – Jeff Nichols (Midnight Special, Mud) – I was in eager in anticipation. But instead of a tense racially charged drama like Mississippi Burning, Nichols has delivered an understated love story. I can understand why he wants to avoid the showy Oscar-clip court scenes, but for a famous legal case – that was cited in 2013’s same-sex marriage Federal Court case – he could have dipped into the fascinating Supreme Court stoush just a little. Along with Hidden Figures I fear some of the actual raw racial abuse has been sanitised for modern audiences.
Still the performances are worthy; with Preacher star Ruth Negga shining through and totally deserving of her Oscar nom, and Joel Edgerton does fine work as the silent and stoic Richard. Nichols cohort Michael Shannon makes an appearance as a LIFE photographer in a touching scene, and Kiwi Martin Csokas brings a fierce intimidation as the local and very racist sheriff. The production itself feels completely believable too; with authentic attention to detail – you’ll notice Edgerton’s prosthetic teeth for one – and a cracking period soundtrack.
While Nichol’s understated love story steers away from your typical civil rights film - and what could have been a fascinating courtroom drama - the acting and production values help make this courageous true tale a worthy watch.
Releases: 16th March 2017
Duration: 123 minutes
Starring: Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton, Will Dalton
Director: Jeff Nichols (Midnight Special, Mud)
Received a standing ovation at its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2016.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision of Loving v. Virginia (388 U.S. 1, argued on April 10, 1967, and decided June 12, 1967) unanimously held that Virginia's "Racial Integrity Act of 1924," which forbade marriage between people of different races, was unconstitutional. This decision therefore effectively voided all such laws in other states as well (at the time, interracial marriage was still illegal in at least 15 other states) and was used as precedent in Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 Supreme Court decision that likewise declared all laws banning same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.
Director Jeff Nichols was able to tell the story of the Loving family as accurately as possible by relying on Nancy Buirski's documentary The Loving Story (2011), which captured many details of their private lives: "We had this beautiful documentary footage unearthed from the mid-'60s where we got to go into their home and see them and watch them," Nichols said. Because much of the dialogue actually comes straight from the documentary, the Writer's Branch of the AMPAS determined that Loving (2016) should compete in the 'Adapted Screenplay' category of the Academy Awards. 
Mildred Delores Jeter Loving's 2008 New York Times obituary reported that her ancestry was both part African American and part Native American on both sides: Rappahannock on her maternal side; Cherokee on her father's. The obituary also said that she preferred to self-identify as Native American rather than African American.