Finding someone to love isn’t easy, and loving someone is even harder. You have to get used to their personality, their quirks. You fight, you make up, and maybe sometimes even break up. Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter were lucky enough to find that perfect love. The person you want to annoy for the rest of your and their lives. But the problem was that they fell in love with each other: a white man and a woman of color. And in 1958, that was deemed unacceptable.
Mildred, played by Ruth Negga, is in love with Richard Loving, played by Joel Edgerton. At 18, she becomes pregnant and the two go to Washinton, D.C. to marry. In D.C. the couple is able to avoid Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws, but the law catches up with them quickly after a tip is given to the local police regarding their marriage. After a brief stint in lock-up, the couple pled guilty and exchanged their one-year prison sentence for agreeing to leave Virginia and not return together for at least 25 years. Holy harsh. Frustrated with the inability to visit family and forced to live in the city, Mildred wrote a letter to Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General. After being referred to the ACLU, the Lovings took their case back to court and fought to be together again in the place they called home.
Only a few years after the verdict, Richard was killed by a drunk driver. Mildred lived out the rest of her life in the home he built for her, passing away in 2008. But the story of the Lovings is one for the ages. Here are two people whose only crime is that they love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together. That shouldn’t be a crime! And yet even today, interracial marriage is still scoffed at in the United States. It can easily be said that this couple was a pioneer for marriage and love in the U.S. But even so many years later, marriage would remain an issue as gay marriage would not become nationally accepted until 2015. And though legally accepted, interracial and gay marriage still faces controversy and hatred from many people.
The casting was done beautifully as Negga and Edgerton portray Mildred and Richard with such poise. These two actors emotionally capture the situation with ease and make you feel their torment and pain. Their love for each other feels palpable, and you know that these two will fight for each other until the end. The cinematography is done well and contrasts the hard reality of living in Washington, D.C. from the comfort of country living for which these two long to have for their family. The supporting cast is minimal but includes some great names like Marton Csokas, Bill Camp, and Nick Kroll. And let’s not forget about the slew of adorable young ones who played the Loving children! So many utterly adorable little faces!!
While the pace is slow, that does not deter from the powerhouse that is this film and this story. I would rather have films like this, that take a piece of important and heart-warming history, than a billion crappy sequels (I’m sorry, but when the hell is Transformers gonna stop?). This is what makes America great. The real lives and stories of people who fought for equality for everyone. Whether in voting or marriage or work, the lives of people are what make America a force to be reckoned with. As Richard says to Mildred, “I’m gonna build you a house, right here, our house.” And if that doesn’t show the power of love and what love can do, I don’t know what does…
If you’re interested in learning more about the Loving family and their monumental court case, HBO Now has the documentary The Loving Story, which follows the couple featuring real footage and an in depth look at who Mildred and Richard Loving were and why their fight was so important. On the 40th anniversary of their case, Mildred said this: “I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”