Those who know me, understand why this was a must see movie. I like many ppl in the U.S. have personally benefited from these two civil rights pioneers who ended one of the most egregious laws of our apartheid era.
And, as I have often written this is the forgotten civil rights case. While talking to the young woman at the box office I asked if she knew what the movie was about and she did not. I suspect they do not teach this history because it is so embarrassing to admit to the extent of our apartheid in the Segregated South. And, I had a private screening of this movie - the only person in the auditorium for the 12:40 PM matinee.
This is a story of forbidden love between a white man, Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) and a black woman, Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga) in rural Virginia in 1958.
Mildred & Richard with Friends at Drag Race
The movie being BASED ON A TRUE STORY, pretty much follows the real events, which I will paste in from a very long essay I wrote in 2007, as told in excerpts from the U.S. Supreme Court decision:
"In June 1958, two residents of Virginia, Mildred Jeter, a Negro woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were married in the District of Columbia ...
Richard & Mildred Wedding in DC
(T)he Lovings returned to Virginia and ... (were charged) with violating Virginia's ban on interracial marriages... and were sentenced to one year in jail; however, the trial judge suspended the sentence for a period of 25 years on the condition that the Lovings leave the State and not return to Virginia together for 25 years.
He stated in an opinion that:
'Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.' "
So there you have it. By some divine channeling the Virginia judge determined that Almighty God doesn't want white folks and black folks to marry.
After their convictions, the Lovings moved to DC, where on November 6, 1963, they filed a motion in the state trial court to vacate the judgment and set aside the sentence on the ground that the statutes which they had violated were repugnant to the Fourteenth Amendment.
It would be over three and a half years before the final decision, which would have such far-reaching effects. The whole decision is on a four-page document, outlining how the State of Virginia was trying to promote white supremacy in its law.
Solace at Kitchen Table
Here are excerpts of the decision:
"There can be no question but that Virginia's miscegenation statutes rest solely upon distinctions drawn according to race. The statutes proscribe generally accepted conduct if engaged in by members of different races. Over the years, this Court has consistently repudiated 'distinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry' as being 'odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality.'
"Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State."
With that the convictions were reversed.
As for the portrayal of this story in the movie, the aggregate critics on Rotten Tomatoes give it 90% Fresh and I am with the 80% of audiences who liked it. The critics consensus: Loving takes an understated approach to telling a painful -- and still relevant -- real-life tale, with sensitive performances breathing additional life into a superlative historical drama.
The lead players were well cast and some scenes in the movie were the same as actual Life Magazine fotos of the Lovings at home by Grey Villet (Michael Shannon).
Richard Hugs Mildred (Cast)
Richard Hugs Mildred (Real)
This setting in the rural South in the late '50s was quite familiar to me. My dad was from rural Mississippi and somehow, Australian born & raised Joel Edgerton captured a Southern blue-collar construction worker so well in posture, movement and stoic silence that I kept seeing my dad in many scenes. Marton Csokas who usually plays evil Russian mobsters was so spot on as the evil Southern Sheriff Brooks, that he reminded me of one of my more archetypical Southern uncles. Good acting all around.