In his handful of features (Take Shelter, Mud, Midnight Special), writer-director Jeff Nichols has carved out a unique and compelling niche for characters on the edges of modern society: a working man convinced of impending doom; lost boys in thrall to a mysterious, perhaps dangerous drifter; and a father determined to protect his uniquely gifted song. Add Loving to this impressive, albeit short list.
Loving is based on the true story of the Lovings, a 1950s Virginia couple whose mixed-race marriage provoked a landmark Supreme Court decision that eliminated miscegenation laws across the country. With rich, quiet performances by Ruth Negga as Mildred and Joel Edgerton as Richard, Loving wisely relegates the big issues to background (the actual Supreme Court case is almost a throwaway) and forsakes the expected dramatic, righteous speeches to focus on the human drama of two characters pained and baffled by the wider social impact of their relationship.
The film’s title ultimately confirms that the real, resonant story to be told here is not that of Loving v. Virginia but instead the very act of loving another human being.