On June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia ruled that Virginia state laws prohibiting interracial marriage were unconstitutional. Richard and Mildred Loving were married in Washington, D.C. in 1958 and were by all means a loving, devoted couple. It is their relationship and legal struggles that the film Loving beautifully captures.
Loving stars Joel Edgerton as Richard Loving, a shy and compassionate white bricklayer from Virginia, and Ruth Negga as Mildred Loving, a young woman of African American and American Indian heritage. The film focuses on the impact racial tensions and legal issues took on the Lovings and their three children over the course of nearly a decade. Instead of emphasizing dramatic courtroom scenes from the legal case, the film plays to the emotional aspect of the Lovings’ relationship. The film puts viewers into the middle of Civil Rights-era America, illustrating with precision and emotional depth the struggles faced by everyday African-Americans.
One scene in particular depicts a break-in happening during the night while the Lovings are asleep. Shockingly, instead of finding someone intent on robbing them, the intruder is a police officer who is there to arrest the Lovings. This is not the only time the couple gets arrested, but it is the first in a series of arrests for breaking anti-miscegenation laws. For younger, contemporary audiences, this is uncomfortable, even difficult, to watch. The film is a grim reminder of a past that most Americans do not wish to repeat. It also serves as a reminder of the still-persisting issues surrounding racism and marriage inequality in America. In fact, the actual case of Loving v. Virginia has, over the past decade, been discussed in the context of same-sex marriage legalization.
Loving was nominated for four Critics’ Choice Awards in 2016, including Best Picture. Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton were also both nominated for Golden Globe awards. Another interesting award to note is that the film also won Best Equality of the Sexes for 2016 from the Women Film Critics Circle. Looking ahead to the Oscars, Ruth Negga’s outstanding performance is being recognized by her nomination in the Best Actress category. While it is wonderful that Loving is getting recognized on a larger Hollywood scale, the awards it has received for beautifully depicting issues of equality show how significantly America’s socio-political climate has changed over the last fifty years.