Racial inequality in the United States was dealt a serious blow with the case of Loving v Virginia, which ultimately led to the Supreme Court ruling that anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional in 1967. Nearly fifty years later, the couple at the center of the trial, Richard and Mildred Loving, have their story told on film. And the story is…surprisingly quiet, considering the impact their case would have for relationships across the country.
Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga) are in love, and after Mildred becomes pregnant, Richard decides to marry her – even though the laws of Virginia prohibit interracial marriages. When the local police find out about this, they barge into their home in the middle of the night to arrest Richard and Mildred. The couple are kept out of jail by agreeing to leave the state of Virginia, never to return together. The couple moves to Washington, D.C., but when Mildred decides she can’t bear living in the city anymore, she’s directed to the ACLU, which agrees to pursue a case for the couple through the Virginia courts all the way to the Supreme Court.
For a film with this type of powerful subject matter, you might expect something more visibly dramatic, but writer/director Jeff Nichols takes an understated approach that’s apparently in keeping with the real-life Lovings. He slowly builds into the time period, showing the Lovings as a couple first and then making it clear what kind of adversity they faced. Both Edgerton and Negga help sell this relationship, which is quiet but deeply felt. It’s a powerful story – one that may require some patience, but is worth knowing.