For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Biographical Films here’s a review of Loving (2016) by James of Blogging By Cinemalight
Thanks again to Nick Rehak of French Toast Sunday for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s genre has been chosen by Joe of The MN Movie Man and we will be reviewing our favorite Summer Camp Movies.
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Jun by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Try to think out of the box! Great choice Joe!
Let’s see what James thought of this movie:
Loving (Jeff Nichols, 2016)
Evolution isn’t a theory, it’s a fact. It is as sure as life and death, which are the main driving engine of the process. The strong survive and the weak die. Those who can adapt, live. Those who can’t adapt become the dust of history. It was ever thus. And to deny it is foolhardy. And if you think I’m wrong, stop taking that medicine you’re on. Take your chances with Nature.
Funny way to start out this review of Loving, the story of two people who changed the law of the land just by loving each other, and knowing right from wrong. When Barack Obama was elected President, it was a pivotal moment in our Nation’s history. It wasn’t because he was the first African-American President—that merely knocked down a false-wall that had been up a long time and was due to collapse under its own stupidity. No. What I found significant was that Obama was the child of what used to be called a “mixed race” marriage. Pop was black, Mom was white. And 42 years before his election, such a marriage was deemed illegal in more than a third (16) of the United States until 1967 when the Supreme Court voted unanimously to overturn “anti-miscegenation” laws. That means that that particular prejudice was erased in slightly more than a generation. And that IS significant. That’s fast. That’s good.
Writer-director Jeff Nichols is fast, too. This is his second film release of 2016, after the quite good sci-fi story Midnight Special, released in April of this year—Loving premiered at Cannes in May and reached wide release in November of this year). The true story of Richard and Mildred Loving (yes, that was their name), who married on July 11, 1958 (at the time, 24 states of the Union had anti-miscegenation laws). they were arrested and jailed five weeks later because Virginia, their home-state, did not consider them married and because he was white and she was black.* “That’s no good here,” the arresting officer told them, they were charged with the crime of “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth” and the presiding judge over the case agreed, citing (in the appeal to hid decision done in 1965) that “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his [arrangement] there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”**
The Lovings were, essentially, banished from the state for 25 years and told that if they returned to the state and insisted on staying married, they would be thrown in jail. They were put on probation for just enough time to leave Virginia (they had married in Washington, D.C., where it was not illegal and subsequently moved there, isolating themselves from family and friends, or face imprisonment).
The Lovings were together, but they weren’t home. As they became a family, and children joined them, Mildred became concerned that the kids were growing up in an urban environment rather than their country. After one of them was hit by a car while playing the street. Mildred threw a “Hail Mary:” she contacted then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who forwarded her letter to the ACLU, who took on their case and took it to the Supreme Court (you can hear the oral arguments below).
The film Jeff Nichols has made of their story should be required viewing to anyone interested in film, sociology, or who just like a good love story. Nichols didn’t have to do much “filling in the blanks” on his film; the “Loving v. Virginia” case is extraordinarily well-documented. There was also a definitive documentary that HBO did a few years ago called The Loving Story, which gathered together all the footage that had been accumulated while the case was going on, as well as personal photos taken by LIFE magazine that had been given to the family. Nichols doesn’t have to do anything fancy—the story is amazing enough with just the transcript. He’s aided and abetted by Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton (who’s never impressed me before, but who’s simple restraint in his performance speaks volumes—I defy anyone to not get chills when asked by one of the ACLU lawyers is there’s anything he wants communicated to the Supreme Court and replies: “Yes…just tell the judges…I love my wife.”), who quietly make you feel for these people, who never weakened, and remained strong in their love despite, while not being against the world, but, at least, against their country.
And that’s why I started this review talking about evolution. Because if the one thing that’s constant in the Universe is change, then you can’t rule out love, either. Love lasts longer than hate or prejudice. Love survives politics…is less ephemeral than fashion or ideology. Love lasts longer than the usefulness of words like “miscegenation.” Love goes beyond generations. Love changes, dramatically, and the only constant in the Universe is change. Hopefully, it’s for the better and love is usually the engine for that change.
And as your Bible says “Love never ends” (but it’s been changed to say “Love never dies” in some versions). Love lasts longer than that.
* Mildred Loving identified herself as Native American, rather than African American—her mother was Rappahannock and her father was Cherokee, but really…are we gonna go there?
** To give him his day in court, those views were not precisely those of that judge, Leon M. Bazile, but he cited as his precedent the views of the 18th century biologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, who categorized the races based on cranial sizes. Even science (when it is opinion) can be ephemeral when used in an unscientific way. Ironically, Judge Bazile died in 1967, the same year his decision was overturned by the Supreme Court.