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Loving


Love in the time of the civil rights struggle

Richard Loving is a bricklayer in rural Virginia, but he comes from such rustic stock that he is mocked for his backwardness, in which he learned to treat black people like people, ignorant, because of his father, of the segregation that dominates life in the South. He is a shy man & does not seem to enjoy talking, which suggests he’s not as bright as his wife. Publicity comes as a burden to him – he seems to prefer life away from the laws & people’s concern with them.

He does not propose to his wife, exactly, but instead takes her on a ride to show her land he’s bought & the plan he’s made to build her a house. He’s as good as his word; they marry in D.C. & are criminals in Virginia. But then one day the sheriff comes & throws him & his wife in jail, because the laws discriminate against race.

He is obedient, however he becomes outraged at the treatment of his wife. He accepts to go away & do his job elsewhere, which is the deal the judge makes him. But his wife cannot tolerate city life too long. She wants to raise their children in the freedom in which she grew up, & which she seems to recall in the scent of the rural South. She wants to be with her family & to have his mother, a midwife, deliver her child. He obeys her.

Mildred is far less shy, except around him, whom she treats with both love & care. She writes to Attorney General Bobby Kennedy to ask for legal relief & starts talking to the NAACP, whom the president’s brother had notified of the family’s need, in order to be able to return home. Justice does not seem to be her primary concern, nor is the dignity of the civil rights struggle her sense of her own dignity.

But civil rights struggles are a part of American life in the Sixties & she sees that she can be part of this change in politics & in society. Richard thinks the lawyers could make a deal with the judge & everyone can mind their business. That’s not a bad idea about justice, but it’s not going to work. The sheriff might look the other way, but the state would consider the children bastards.

Mildred is far more available to the lawyers & the press, & willing to talk in order to make their case public & gain allies. Richard finally refuses to go to the Supreme Court hearings of their case, & she chooses to stay with him. This is the limit beyond which love cannot move, which is his narrow concern, & beyond which her concern for the law cannot move without abandoning the private life of the family.

Mr. Jeff Nichols’s second movie of the year, an attempt to defend the privacy of its protagonists and at the same time to balance the struggle for justice with the yearning for a happy family life.