Loving (2016): Good but not Great Film, Decent but not Passionate

At the end of the press screening of Loving, which world premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Fest (in competition), a consensus seems to be rapidly forming among critics.

The film is good but not great, certainly worth seeing, even if failing to stir deep emotions or change ideas about love, marriage, race, and nationalism.

The tale’s protagonists are Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton), a white construction worker, and Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga), an African American field worker, from Virginia’s rural Caroline County, Va., whose interracial marriage in Washington, D.C., in 1958 violates Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act. This painful case was finally settled a decade by the US Supreme Court in a seminal decision.

As directed and written by Jeff Nichols, Loving was respected but not admired, appreciated for its restraint but not really loved with passion.

Most critics agree that it should be seen for its thematic issues—at least half of the film feels like a useful and significant history lesson, which should be delivered in various educational levels, from elementary schools all the way to colleges and universities.

I was initially concerned about grading the picture as B- (or *** out of *****) in a poll of international critics, only to find out that none of the reviewers has given it a straight A or even A-.


Though heartfelt, and well-intentioned, Loving unfolds as a heartfelt, but decidedly unexciting chronicle of “illegal love.”

But, considering the basic facts upon which it is based, Loving it too cautious, too middlebrow, too concerned with its honorable goal of presenting the story as simply and as honestly possible.  It represents—or gives voices to various sides of the story—but the film is afraid to take a louder, more audacious strategy lest it offends and disturbs a segment of the audience.

There are additional problems: Joel Edgerton is a good actor, but he lacks charisma (which is why he never became a star or A-lister layer).  Edgerton is much more compelling in supporting roles.

The most disappointing thing about the film is that it is the creation of a quintessentially indie director, Jeff Nichols, who has impressed with his previous, much bolder and original features, Mud and Take Shelter.

Nichols, a gifted filmmaker, must have felt constrained by the case’s facts, or the legacy of the real individuals and their survivors, or perhaps by the documentary about the Lovings, which had aired on HBO.