Its fascinating subject and a pair of wonderfully nuanced performances – from the glowing and defiant Ruth Negga in particular – can’t keep Loving from feeling somewhat safe and unadventurous, helmed though it is by the great (and usually bolder) Jeff Nichols. For such a daring and unusual storyteller (dare we say auteur yet… ?),
As deeply American a story as Nichols has ever told, Loving swoons and swells in all the right places, but never entirely gets an emotional hold nor communicates fully the extent of its stakes. Its respectful subtlety, and refusal to overtly pander for an emotional response is paradoxically both Loving‘s greatest strength and weakness. It offers a refreshingly unmanipulative take on the subject of racial division in America, yet at crucial moments feels so understated that it undersells the power of its story.
Thoroughly decent, Loving is a crowd-pleaser that has quietly and deservedly made a strong showing for itself with various awards bodies over the last few months – though we can’t help but expect a little more, especially given the level of talent involved both in front of and behind the camera.
Respectably written, performed and shot, Loving is refined and mannered to a fault, but a lack of emotional impact renders it ever-so-slightly forgettable – especially when compared to Nichols’ visionary prior works. Loving is Nichols at his most middle-brow – chalk this one up as a minor entry in his burgeoning canon.
CAST: Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton, Alano Miller, Nick Kroll, Michael Shannon
DIRECTOR: Jeff Nichols
WRITER: Jeff Nichols
SYNOPSIS: Richard and Mildred Loving (Edgerton and Negga), an interracial married couple in 1950s Virginia, take to court the battle for their right to marriage in the state.
Loving was initially reviewed In Competition at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.