The story of Richard and Mildred Loving is an incredibly important one. The Lovings were an interracial couple, living in Virginia in 1958, who were arrested following their marriage, which was illegal in that part of the South at the time. They were then forced to leave Virginia (or stay and go to prison), and for the next decade, fought for their right to be able to live together, as husband and wife, anywhere in the country.
Their case, which went all the way to the Supreme Court, is one of the landmark cases in the history of our nation. A 2011 HBO documentary on their quest, “The Loving Story”, earned both a Peabody and a News & Documentary Emmy Award.
But not all amazing, true-life stories make for great dramatized cinema. The story of the Lovings has all the elements for an inspiring and powerful feature film. Unfortunately, “Loving” isn’t it.
Writer/director Jeff Nichols (“Mud”, “Midnight Special”) hasn’t made one of the worst films of the year, but he has made, arguably, the dullest – from the first frame to the last. Every single scene plays-out like it’s in slow-motion. Similar to “Foxcatcher” two years ago, there are lengthy dramatic pauses in between most of the lines of dialogue. That may be how people spoke in the South at the time, but sitting through 2-hours of it is agonizing. I found myself zoning-out several times, losing contact with any bit of momentum the film had built.
Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga play Richard and Mildred Loving. They certainly portray a committed and caring couple, but neither performance is compelling or interesting, largely because their characters lack any legitimate personal arc. Michael Shannon (who’s now been in all five of Nichols’s movies) has a small role as a LIFE magazine photographer. And Nick Kroll and Jon Bass play a couple of lawyers who seem better suited for a light comedy instead of this historical drama.
And I probably shouldn’t use the word “drama” in connection with this film because practically no dramatic events take place and there’s a complete lack of dramatic tension. Time passes, but nothing really happens to bring “Loving” to life. Mildred has three kids. Richard lays bricks and works on cars. Even the key, climactic event is downplayed.
Admittedly, “Loving” is well-shot and there are a handful of nice moments. But if you’re interested this case, you’re much better off reading about it online (or watching the previously mention doc). For a movie about justice, “Loving” does this significant story a major injustice.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Loving” gets a C.
Running Time: 123 min.