Review / ‘Loving’ (PG) ***

Joel Edgerton as Richard Loving and Ruth Negga as his wife Mildred.

KNOWING before it begins how a film ends compels the writer to work hard to make the screenplay claim and keep our interest on the way to that result.

Richard Loving and his wife Mildred.

The smooth flow of the creative process is easier when the writer (Jeff Nichols) is also the director. “Loving” covers from 1958 when Sheriff Brooks burst into the room where white builder’s labourer Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) was in bed with his wife of six weeks Mildred (Ethiopian-born Ruth Negga) and arrested them for breach of the State of Virginia law declaring marriages between white and coloured persons, and travelling out of the State to avoid that provision, to be unlawful.

While the film makes no reference to the “Pocahontas Exception”, which Mildred put forward in their defence (throughout the case she insisted that she was an American Indian), it covers a mesh of legal elements including Virginia’s 1924 Racial Integrity Act, which defined a white person as having only Caucasian blood.

Nichols largely focuses the film on Richard and Mildred’s responses to the effect of Virginia law on their family. It doesn’t appear before the US Supreme Court which, nine years after county court judge Bazile (David Jensen) ordered their banishment from Virginia for 25 years, unanimously declared proscriptions against interracial marriage to be unconstitutional. Not even the President can trump the Supreme Court card!

The screenplay combines the family’s life during those nine years with dissection of a law perpetuating the oppression of black people a century after a civil war fought to end slavery. Edgerton and Negga make Richard and Mildred a credible pair. Filmed mostly where its events actually happened, the film’s treatment of their emotional burden and their loving loyalty to their family is as credible as one might wish to watch.

At Dendy and Palace Electric

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