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Rarely has a film of such historical importance felt so vivid and relatable.

The title Loving, which reflects not just the characters’ surname, but the real and difficult love they share, sets us up for the direct hit of quiet power Jeff Nichols allows this true story. Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial Virginia couple in 1950s, spent nine years fighting for the legal right to live in their hometown as a family. Their civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia, went through all the courts, winding up in 1967, as the Supreme Court case which reaffirmed the right to marry in America.

It is especially poignant to watch this groundbreaking story as it is told here, reflecting what I assume was the couple’s own personality: understated, almost low key, especially in relation to what they were accomplishing. Richard’s mother tells him he knew what he was getting into when he drove Mildred and her father to Washington DC, a town where he told them getting a legal marriage license would be easier. But Richard is no activist or politician. He is simply a simple man who wants to marry the woman he loves and to raise their children on the land he owns. It’s Ruth who gets the legal ball rolling, a woman inspired by the times, but also one whose real end game is just getting home.

Beautifully shot and acted throughout, the cast includes a surprising Nick Kroll, as the Lovings’ attorney and a whale of a moment from Michael Shannon, proving Stanislavski’s point when he insisted “there are no small parts, only small actors”. But this is a great showcase for the marvelous talents of both Ruth Negga, who breaks through with a wonderfully modulated performance, and Joel Edgerton, one of our most fascinating actors, making an indelible mark while hardly saying a word.

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