Category Archive for: ‘Michael Ferguson’

Loving — Film Review


Directed by Jeff Nichols



This a well crafted, touching story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the interracial couple whose case at the U.S. Supreme Court resulted in the striking down of so-called “miscegenation” laws, which forbade marriage between interracial couples.  The case began in 1958 when the couple traveled from Virginia to Washington, DC to marry and then returned to live in Virginia.  The film recounts the saga of their plight until the case was unanimously resolved in their favor by the Supreme Court in 1967.

The film is beautifully made with the lead roles performed with great sensitivity by Joel Edgerton (Richard) and Ruth Negga (Mildred).  Joel Edgerton did not have to learn a lot of lines for his role.  Richard Loving seems to have been a man of very few words.  He elevated laconic to a higher exponent.  But his presence is very strong and Edgerton does an effective portrayal in a rather difficult role.

There are three forces in society that tend to break down racial and ethnic prejudices:  music, sports, and sex.   This film illustrates the third.  The Virginia law, and others like it mostly in the Southern states, were intended to maintain racial purity and social separation between the races.   They were a holdover from the era of slavery.  In the slave era it was not possible for a freeborn person to marry a slave.  The miscegenation laws were a continuation of that policy.   Lust and desire do not always respect those boundaries and thus the need for laws to suppress their inherent unruliness.  The United States has been slowly progressing in the direction of delegitimizing and dismantling the institutionalization of racial and ethnic  prejudices for a century and a half.  Delegitimizing a feeling or an attitude does not erase it from the hearts and minds of people, but it does remove institutional and legal support for it.

For example, living in present day San Francisco, this issue doesn’t even impinge on consciousness.  There is such a mix of ethnic and racial diversity, so many interracial couples, and so many people of multiple racial and ethnic forbears that it is hard to conceive how the carving of such lines and barriers could even be meaningful.  On the other hand, I used to live in Chicago in the 1970s, and I knew a girl of Polish ancestry at that time who had a black boyfriend.  She could not take him to her family home on the southwest side of Chicago.  If they were to be seen walking down a public street together in that neighborhood they would surely be attacked.

The United States has changed a lot in the last forty years and the Loving case represents a watershed in that progressive trend.  The film depicts the personal and human impact of social bigotry and the struggle against it.  Although the Lovings were not activists, and Richard particularly had little social vision beyond his own plight, they became caught up in a struggle that was much broader and much more momentous than their own misfortune.  It is an outstanding film and people all around the world should see it and behold an example of something that is good about America.

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