Film & Television

‘Loving’ — A Historic Case and a Personal Love Story

Richard Loving is played by Australian actor Joel Edgerton. He first came to my attention as Charlie (the straight, white guy) in 2005’s Kinky Boots and later played a downright brutal Tom Buchanan in the Leonardo DiCaprio Great Gatsby. In Loving, he’s strong, reserved and often silent, but desperate to keep his wife and children safe. He’s compelling, even when he can’t quite put what he’s feeling into words, but the actor isn’t given the opportunity to evolve his character as much as his costar is.

The supporting cast is solid, in particular Terry Abney as Mildred’s sister, Michael Shannon as the photographer, Nick Kroll as their ACLU attorney, and Martin Csokas (a younger doppelganger for Russell Crowe) as a racist sheriff. Many of the other actors seem so genuine and effortless that it feels as though Nichols cast “real people,” rather than professionals. Similarly, the movie’s creative team has done an excellent job recreating the 1960s with authentic costumes, sets, cars, and even an iconic Correlle dinnerware pattern.

The movie runs just about two hours and one of its strengths is the level of tension Nichols is able to create, without actually depicting scenes of hate and violence. The danger to Mildred, Richard, and their children is quite real and always present.

Loving is an historically accurate account of an almost 50 year-old watershed civil rights case. But, it’s also an intimate human drama about two people who risk their safety and liberty to be together. It’s an important movie and a very good one. And, the story is still immensely relevant today as politicians and religious leaders continue to debate same-sex marriage.

In June 2007, on the 40th anniversary of Loving vs. Virginia and a year before her death, Mildred Loving was asked about gay marriage. She said . . .

“I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry … I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

Mildred’s statement underscores the important lesson inherent in the film. Loving happens to be about a black woman and a white man. But, from a broader perspective, it’s really about anyone and everyone. It makes a case (and one that the 1967 Supreme Court agreed with) that you have the right to love who you love.

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