The tale of Alfred and Mildred Loving is a tale of trial, tenacity and triumph. Set in 1960s America, the film tells the story of Loving vs. Virginia, the trial in which the couple fought to legally live in their home state, but more importantly — live there together, married and with their three children.
The costume and set design, cinematography, editing and even acting reflected the time period and presented the story much like a documentary; offering an understated and realistic depiction of two people fighting for their marriage to be legitimized and legalized while trying to start a family and build a life for themselves.
A detail that particularly stood out was that of colorists, Mitch Paulson and Matt Wallach who colored the film in a light, sepia-like tone giving it that dated time period appropriate quality that made it feel authentic and real.
With such a heart-wrenching story to tell, you would expect to see dramatic scenes and emotional outbursts throughout the film. But it was in the understated drama and boiling under the surface emotion that the film was most successful and touching and ironically enough, dramatic.
However, there are moments—particularly when Mildred Loving is being taken to jail for the second time, only moments after giving birth—that you wanted to shake actress Ruth Negga to get her to react a bit more melodramatically given the circumstance Mildred was in.
But it is in her composure that she generates a great deal of anger towards her situation in the audience. When she hands her newborn child to her sister, Garnet, and walks out of Richard’s mother’s home without hugging or saying goodbye to anyone — going straight to her prospective police car, to jail once again for loving a man she’s not allowed to love — our heart truly bleeds for her.
And it’s in the quiet and subtle every-day moments that director Jeff Nichols presents that we see the lighter balance of the couple, just being a couple.
The two actors (Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton) work very well together, depicting the differences in the couple: Mildred’s quiet tenacity and her ongoing fight for justice and Richard’s meekness and his hesitation towards fighting on such a large scale. But what’s also presented, through it all, is the pure love they have for each other.
Despite their different outlooks, Richard allows his wife to carry on fighting for them and stands by her side as she does. Mildred Loving is presented as a caring and loving wife and mother, with unwavering tenacity, fighting for her love right up until the trial results.
With a plot and design that follows the time period and original story closely, the film tells the story of Mildred and Richard Loving as it should be told: understated and with respect and great admiration for their struggles and triumphs.