Wednesday, 30 November 2016

REVIEW - LOVING (JEFF NICHOLS)


Such a gentle story of such a ferocious fight. Alas, one can hardly help but feel that Jeff Nichols settles too comfortably into a particular groove with Loving, one of unmannered restraint and unforced empathy. Largely removed from the courtroom bluster that defines most dramas about momentous legal battles, the film is instead a portrait of the ordinary love of the ordinary folk engaging in this most extraordinary case, and for ordinary reasons. That's potent, but entirely plain in Loving, and the warm calm with which Nichols paints this portrait never even threatens to ignite into the kind of blaze, if only a temporary one, that surely must have burnt beneath this struggle. The roles of Richard and Mildred Loving, the interracial couple whose Supreme Court case struck down anti-miscegenation laws throughout the U.S., are inhabited by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga with simple grace; Negga is particularly unpretentious in her refusal to relent to easy characterization. It's a trait that she shares with her writer-director, though one may yearn, on his part, for some more of the verve that he has displayed in previous films - even inferior ones - and which all too infrequently emerges in Loving. Nichols' earnest, unassuming picture of rural life in America's South possesses a beautiful, genuine palpability in its authentic accents and in Adam Stone's cinematography, but little of the artistic nor conceptual purpose that might bolster its political purpose, itself already understated. This film might claim to know the Lovings, but its knowledge exceeds its understanding; in merely showing, rather than co-opting, their boldness, it eventually does them a minor disservice.