Starring: Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton, Will Dalton
Director: Jeff Nichols
Although often very different in subject matter, Jeff Nichols films always have this exploration of humanity and love that I really like. Midnight Special was science fiction, but it was also about a man protecting his family, a man in extraordinary circumstances. In Take Shelter, a man finds himself seeing visions of the end of the world, and he starts to build a shelter to protect his family, though he also fears he might be crazy. It’s ordinary people dealing with the unexpected, the unexplained outside world, in ways that are relatable. It’s more about the human psyche than the dramatic. And his male leads are often very internalised men, which calls for strong performances.
Here, you’ll find some themes that are similar, though this time the plot is a true story. Richard Loving (Edgerton) is an ordinary man who just wants to live an ordinary life with the wife he loves. But Mildred (Negga) is black, and so they are arrested after marrying and have to face jail time or being evicted from the state and the arms of their family, if they want to be together. The story of the Loving family and their fight to be together goes on for years, and has to be fought all the way to the Supreme Court.
What’s wonderful about this film is that they just want to be together, there’s no grandstanding or attention seeking about them, and there’s no sense that they’re not a team, a true partnership. They’re not interested in making a case, they’re interested in being together. It’s a portrait of a true romance, one that has a lot to endure. Like many Nichols characters, they’re down to earth people. They don’t make big speeches, but they’re beautiful and ordinary, loving and living lives under extraordinary circumstances. And like many of Nichols protagonists, Richard is a man of few words.
Beautiful performances, heartfelt and sad, this is a story of a couple, and the changing face of America in the 50’s, and it’s a beautiful story, well told.
See It If: If you haven’t seen Jeff Nichols films before, this is a great one to start out with, and then I suggest you go back and watch some of his others, he’s one of my favourite directors.