4 film reviewers walk into a cinema… here’s what the Hooked On Film team made of the award nominated film Loving.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Loving breaks all the racial problems of 1960s America down to a very simple truth: that a man and a woman should be allowed to marry each other without having to keep a baseball bat by their bed. It uses soft tones and simple language, and boasts two incredibly powerful performances in Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, whose real-life interracial couple (Richard and Mildred Loving) helped bring down the wall of discrimination that kept so many people apart.
Director Jeff Nichols’ film is touching in all the right ways, and portrays the couple as both stubborn and steadfast. But what it lacks, I think, are stakes. Much of the drama comes from Edgerton and Negga, whose problems don’t really amount to a hill of beans. We get the feeling they changed the world not because they wanted to, but because they were simply swept along for the ride.
This lack of stakes is also my main gripe with the film. It’s incredibly tedious to watch; your attention peaks in the opening scene and falls steadily from then on because there’s no conflict. I knew how the story would pan out and it never really engaged me emotionally, aside from a few moments here and there. Coupled with notable plot devices that seemed to be blown out of proportion – where simple solutions could have easily solved the problem – I grew weary from the whole affair.
I’m sure the true story was every bit the touching and inspirational tale Loving wanted it to be, but unfortunately this didn’t translate well on screen.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
While it’s true that Loving is a slow film, it’s less meandering than it is delicate with its subjects and the subject matter. Nichols avoids confining his actors to your standard story structure and opts instead to let Edgerton and Negga live as the Lovings in front of the camera. It’s a brave stroke of realism that pays off dividends in making the pair appear as though they are a real couple, even if it means the more mundane aspects of life must also be present.
The subtleties of the performances are what truly elevates the film, favouring quiet resonance over impact. Edgerton is barely recognisable beneath Mr. Loving’s rough, rustic appearance, and Negga says far more with her saucer-sized eyes than ever comes out of her mouth. The lack of forthright conflict means that Loving is not the most entertaining or compelling film, but Nichols’ nuanced style appropriately reflects the humble motives of its couple; the desire to avoid discord and live a normal life.
⭐ ⭐ ½
It’s just that, for all its subtle niceties and slavish accuracy, I found the whole affair rather…boring? Loving is told at an almost glacial pace, inching along and offering only minute details along the way that often feed into very little or nothing at all.
The film finally starts to come good when Nick Kroll‘s cheeky civil rights lawyer arrives on the scene, but unfortunately everything leading up to this point is rather dull. Like the others, I can see what Nichols was aiming for – a film that focuses on the quiet life Mildred and Richard so keenly want rather than showy, cinematic moments – but it simply didn’t work for me and I found my attention slipping at numerous points throughout the film.
Loving is available in Australian cinemas from March 16
Image courtesy of EntertainmentOne Films