Cinematic Releases: Loving (2016) - Reviewed

Seeing a genuine relationship unfold on the screen, in which both participants embody the essence of affection, is a celluloid boon that has remained a pillar of film convention since its inception.  Jeff Nichols's humble masterwork, Loving, is a phenomenal example, a fundamental story about the definition of love and a reticent deconstruction of the civil rights drama.
Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star as Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple exiled from Virginia in 1958 after their marriage license is deemed illegal.  Edgerton's Richard is a soft spoken, deceptively simple man who understands the gravity of his actions and yet can't seem to reconcile why his predicament even exists.  This is the beautiful center of Loving.  Poise and a restrain are used in almost frustrating amounts to rhythmically reinforce Nichols's peaceful dissent.   Edgerton carries this theme in his character's broken heart, exhaustively keeping his rage and disgust in check at every turn.

Negga gives an award caliber performance as Mildred.  Her ability to communicate heart breaking depth with just a glance is Loving's most alluring attribute.  She dominates every scene with a gentle approach, exquisitely in step with Edgerton as their natural chemistry forms a cinematic representation of love's ability to overcome.  Negga brings an unceremonious sense of acceptance to her situation that is devastating in presentation and repulsing with its historical implications.  Her voice never falters and her tone never surrenders or pities, echoing the movement's pleas for basic human equality.   This could have been a boisterous, possibly divisive film, and Negga's seminal performance keeps everything within the orbit of unconditional, undeniable love. 

Adam Stone's cinematography uses the grace of Southern living to frame simplistic compositions bathed with natural light and warm, calming colors.  Serenity is interwoven in the fabric of this film, presenting a harmony that refuses to be quelled.  The close ups of Negga's cautious eyes and Edgerton's tired smiles keep the Loving's uncertain plight grounded, while breezy wide shots of the Virginia countryside serve as a reminder of American beauty that persists through even the nation's darkest times.  Stone's impeccable control is best displayed during a blue soaked nocturnal sequence that sets everything into motion.  In lesser hands, it would border on horror or action, but the camera presents the happenings as an expected consequence, blending with the characters’ disparaging submission to the way things were. 

That right there is what you call a bigot, honey. 

Erin Benach's costume design, particularly with respect to Negga, enriches the hesitant splendor of fashion during the period.  Adam Willis's judicious set decoration underscores the proceedings with vintage furniture and priceless country heirlooms filling every space, but never overindulging, allowing Jonathan Guggenheim's art direction to give the viewer a keyhole look in to the lives of private people. David Wingo's salubrious score is the final ingredient, with delicate tones tracing the struggle from its intolerant origins to its historic conclusion. 
In theaters now, Loving is not only a beautiful experience, it is a profoundly relevant film.  A legal story with virtually no courtroom drama, Loving elevates the romance genre to the heavens by focusing on the human casualties of hate.  If you're interested in a masterfully made, heartwarming rumination on the meaning of partnership and family, Loving is an exceptional choice.


-Kyle Jonathan

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