Review: In ‘Loving,’ They Loved. A Segregated Virginia Did Not Love Them Back.

Review: In ‘Loving,’ They Loved. A Segregated Virginia Did Not Love Them Back.

The New York Times

Manohla Dargis, Movie Critic

Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as Mildred and Richard Loving in the Jeff Nichols film “Loving.” Credit Ben Rothstein/Focus Features

There are few movies that speak to the American moment as movingly — and with as much idealism — as Jeff Nichols’sLoving,” which revisits the era when blacks and whites were so profoundly segregated in this country that they couldn’t always wed. It’s a fictionalization of the story of Mildred and Richard Loving, a married couple who were arrested in 1958 because he was white, she was not, and they lived in Virginia, a state that banned interracial unions. Virginia passed its first anti-miscegenation law in 1691, partly to prevent what it called “spurious issue,” or what most people just call children.

The America that the Lovings lived in was as distant as another galaxy, even as it was familiar. The movie opens in the late 1950s, when Mildred (Ruth Negga, a revelation) and Richard (Joel Edgerton, very fine) are young, in love and unmarried. They already have the natural intimacy of long-term couples, the kind that’s expressed less in words and more in how two bodies fit, as if joined by an invisible thread. It’s a closeness that seems to hold their bodies still during a hushed nighttime talk on a porch and that pulls them together at a drag race, under the gaze of silent white men…

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