Movie Review: Loving - an important story, a so-so drama

Focus Features

Loving opens in select New Zealand cinemas on March 16.

Loving (PG)

123 mins ★★★

Loving brings up the rear of the throng of Oscar-nominated, worthy movies, with its true story (again) about racial injustice (again), which attempts to deliver an emotional hit (again), and stars some reasonably talented actors (newcomer Ruth Negga went up against other Best Actress nominees Streep, Portman, Stone and Huppert).

Sadly however, although Loving (directed by Cannes Film Festival darling Jeff Nichols) ticks all these venerable boxes, it fails to leave the heavy imprint its tale should.

Richard and Mildred Loving (a fortuitously apt surname) are an interracial couple, madly in love in 1960s Virginia, but scuppered by the law which forbids blacks and whites from marrying. They skip over the border to one of the more progressive American states to tie the knot secretly, but on returning to Virginia they are hounded, arrested and sent to court.

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star in Loving.
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Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star in Loving.

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What ensues is a plot involving episodes of deceit, the birth of children, unreasonableness in the eyes of today's viewer, and surprisingly unaffecting legal scenes for a film you'd expect to rely on audience outrage and legal argy-bargy to deliver its point.

One problem is Australian Joel Edgerton's depiction of the titular Mister, the almost albino bricklayer of few words whose character arc is supposedly depicted throughout myriad transitions of him laying bricks in different seasons. Edgerton is usually a terrific actor, star of the Aussie hit Animal Kingdom, but his well-meaning portrayal of a desperate man is charisma-free. Perhaps Negga's reliable performance was thus thrown into relief as Oscar-worthy, but up against a finer male counterpart, she may otherwise have been overlooked.

If you strip out the repeated shots of Richard fixing his car and Mildred's supportive family saying hello/goodbye, the film would lose half an hour. It's an important story of ground-breaking courage, but disappointingly Loving doesn't do it justice

 

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