“I’m pregnant.” Spoken under darkening skies, they’re two simple words that can fill a room, make your heart swell and, in the case of Loving, become the catalyst to a decade of emotional and physical upheaval.
Based on a true story, Loving is set in 1950s country Virginia. It’s a time when ‘whites’ and ‘coloureds’ live harmoniously together, but the promise to uphold the state’s anti-miscegenation laws is strict and abiding. Embraced within the boundaries of these laws is Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton), a white builder, and Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga), a coloured fieldworker. Never mind a sentimental backstory or formulaic character development, the softness of Edgerton’s compelling performance and the hope emanating effortlessly from Negga are all that is required to see that theirs is a love infallible.
So when news of the pregnancy arrives, Richard spares no time in settling in for that lifelong commitment. Like something out of a Nicholas Sparks novel, he purchases an acre of land moments from Mildred’s family, vows to build her a house on it and whisks her away to Washington, D.C. to be married.
Blessings from family and friends are bittersweet and supportive but the law still abides, and the joyous moment is stolen from them when the state rules that they be jailed for their illegal behaviour. It’s the beginning of what feels like a lifelong battle with courts, lawyers and the community’s unspoken hostility toward their interracial relationship.
Cinematographically arresting, Loving captures the essence of this turning point in America’s history through romantic and worldly eyes. The film’s focus is less on the law and more about relationships; not just between Loving and Mildred but on their family and friends as they weave a network of strength around the couple.
Sadly these sub-characters remain as far back along the wall as possible, scripted to only appear when needed and hardly addressed as more than a title – a mother, a father, a sister, a brother. Yet there’s a quiet confidence in Edgerton’s and Negga’s performances that is endearing. Their strength of characters arises not through dramatic sequences but through their respect, love and willingness to please one another.
Like all good true story adaptations, Loving is patient, it’s kind, it doesn’t boast and it’s incredibly sincere.
Loving opens in cinemas Thursday March 16.