Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga deliver wonderful performances as Richard and Mildred Loving, but the film's unwavering tone grows stultifying
The marriage of Richard and Mildred Loving in 1958 was a revolutionary act with far-reaching political consequences, but Richard and Mildred were not revolutionaries. They simply wanted to live together like any other couple, and Jeff Nichols’ Loving takes its lead from their quiet dignity. There no emotional outbursts, no dramatic twists, and instead of building to the rousing Supreme Court speechifying that we might expect, the Lovings’ historically seismic victory is expressed in the most understated terms.
It’s an admirable approach, but it also leaves the film lacking in dramatic thrust and emotional heft, and it sometimes seems that director Jeff Nichols is so burdened by the weight of doing justice to this story he’s wary of introducing any kind of artistic flourish. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga both deliver modest, internalised performances – with Negga’s expressive eyes being one of Loving's biggest virtues – and the film has some tender moments of intimacy, but the steady pace and unwavering tone grows stultifying. These are good people and it’s an important story, but that in itself is not quite enough.