Loving

This 2016 film is based on the documentary “The Loving Story” by Nancy Buirski.

The film starts with Mildred (Ruth Negga) telling Richard (Joel Edgerton) that she’s pregnant. This was in Virginia in 1958. Richard immediately bought a whole acre of land to build a house for them and their family, and proposed marriage. They were married in Washington.

One night, the Deputy Sheriff and his men went to their house in the middle of the night, arrested them and locked them up. Their sentence was suspended for 25 years, with the condition that they must move away. With the help of a young lawyer Bernard Cohen (Nick Kroll), the Supreme Court made the prohibition of marriage based on race unconstitutional by stating that marriage is an inherent right. This paved the way for future inter-racial marriages in America.

The film follows the real life story of Richard and Mildred Loving, but it is also a story about humanity and love in the truest sense. There are so many things in the story: their lives and their personalities. There’s quite a fair bit of silences and deceptively simple scenes, but they’re really complex: for example, how the courtroom drama affected both of them and their three (very cute, I may add) children. Witnessing their quiet fortitude and the slow-burning menace, we get to see the larger context. The Lovings are a symbol of how good we can be and the better part of ourselves.

I’m not sure if this film was shown in Singapore, but I’m sure it was well-received in America (or it should have been) because the story of Mildred and Richard changed American history. They were married in 1958, when inter-racial marriages were a felony, against the law. There was a huge social uproar with the marching and lynching (shown in archival footages). The case took nine years, and they have become the heroes for inter-racial marriages in America. It connects race, marriage equality and equality in general. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is love. Love can change the world.

I especially like the song Is Everything All Right by Earl King (at the early part of the story when construction of the house was taking place) and Loving by Ben Nichols (during the end credits). There are more than half a dozen others, all equally appropriately used to enhance the atmosphere and mood. The photo of Richard and Mildred Loving taken in 1965  and the one from a 1966 Life Magazine show that the filmakers really put in a lot of effort in making everything look authentic.

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