Loving

Posted on November 10, 2016 at 5:21 pm

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements
Profanity: Racist epithets
Alcohol/ Drugs: Some alchohol
Violence/ Scariness: Racism, some shoving, child hurt in accident
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: November 11, 2016
Date Released to DVD: February 6, 2017
Amazon.com ASIN: B01LTHZK2U

Copyright 2016  Focus
Copyright 2016 Focus
We don’t have to see how they met. We don’t have to see how he worked up the courage to ask her out or their first misunderstanding, or watch her try on different outfits before their big date. “Loving,” written and directed by Jeff Nichols (“Midnight Special,” “Mud”) brings us into the story of Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Oscar nominee Ruth Negga) as they have a very short, very simple, but very meaningful conversation. She pauses, and we can see on her face that she does not know how he will react and is perhaps afraid to hope. Finally, she says it: “I’m pregnant.”

There is a pause, only a few seconds but it feels much longer. Finally he says only, “That’s great.” But it is clear that he is overjoyed that their love has created a child and he is fully committed to her. And it is clear, too, that they are not fully aware of the ramifications of having a child when the mother is black, the father is white, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, which shut down its entire school system just four years earlier in response to the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, prohibits marriage or cohabitation between people of different races specifically because it does not want mixed-race children to be born.

Washington D.C. allows inter-racial marriage, so they are married there in 1958, and return home.  One night the sheriff crashes into their home as they are sleeping in their bed, their marriage license on the wall, and arrests them.  The judge suspends their sentence only if they will agree to leave the state and never return together.

They live with family in Washington, and raise three children.  But Mildred wants to go home. Nichols conveys the Edenic quality of the countryside they love. The Civil Rights movement has begun, so she writes to Attorney General Robert Kennedy to ask for his help.  He puts her in touch with the American Civil Liberties Union, a nonprofit that protects Constitutional rights. Two idealistic, if inexperienced, young lawyers (Nick Kroll and Jon Bass) want to take their case to the Supreme Court, which can invalidate all 16 state miscegenation laws.

Nichols keeps the legal stuff at the edges of the story. His focus is on the Lovings and their community, and the film is brimming with small, beautifully realized, evocative details. A dinner scene shows how completely Richard is accepted as a part of Mildred’s family. But we also see a frank conversation where a black man tells Richard that they may be alike, but Richard can “fix” his problem with the bigoted law by leaving Mildred while there is nothing they can do to “fix” theirs.

Richard’s mother, a midwife, only needs a few words to let Richard know that she did not give the police any information about where the Lovings were (and to let him know she was not entirely happy about the marriage, though she treats Mildred with kindness). We see a baleful glance from a defeated white competitor in a car race that could indicate the source of the complaint to the sheriff.

We see Richard’s careful, capable hands stirring mortar and laying concrete blocks and Mildred caring for the children and sitting at the kitchen table to write to the Attorney General. And, in a re-creation of the famous photo in LIFE Magazine by Grey Villet (a nice cameo by Nichols regular Michael Shannon), we see their quiet pleasure in each other as they laugh at the “Andy Griffith Show” episode about Aunt Bee’s pickles. He may need a lawyer to tell the nine old men on the Supreme Court he loves his wife. We see it in every frame.

Parents should know that this film depicts historic racism with some offensive epithets. The movie also includes a childbirth scene and an (off-screen) accident involving a child.

Family discussion: If you could take a case to the Supreme Court, what would it be?  What do we learn about the Lovings from seeing them with their families?

If you like this, try: the documentary “The Loving Story

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Based on a true story Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Features & Top 10s Race and Diversity Romance

Loving: The Real Story

Posted on November 9, 2016 at 8:00 am

“Loving,” opening across the country this week, is about the couple whose marriage became the Supreme Court case “Loving v. Virginia.” It is shocking today to think that it was not until 1967 that laws prohibiting marriage between people of different races were found unconstitutional. Today, there is a Supreme Court justice who is himself married to a woman of a different race.

Richard and Mildred Loving lived in a small Virginia community where the races mixed freely. Richard Loving was white and his father worked for a black man. Mildred herself was of mixed race, part black, part Native American, and probably part white as well. Virginia, which shut down the state’s school system for two years rather than follow the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education and integrate the schools, was one of sixteen states to prohibit interracial marriage. The Virginia judge who upheld the law wrote:

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.

The judge relied on an earlier court decision upholding miscegenation laws “to preserve the racial integrity of its citizens,” and to prevent “the corruption of blood,” “a mongrel breed of citizens,” and “the obliteration of racial pride.”

The Lovings were married in the District of Columbia, which permitted interracial marriage, and then they returned to their home. Police broke in while they were asleep and arrested them.

They were banned from the state. The judge told them that if they returned, they would be arrested. So, they moved to Washington D.C. and raised their three children. But they wanted very much to return to their rural community.

Mildred Loving wrote to Attorney General Robert Kennedy to ask for help, and his office referred her to the American Civil Liberties Union. Two young lawyers took the case. Ten years after they were arrested, their marriage made it possible for interracial couples — including President Obama’s parents — to be legally married.

The unanimous decision was stated in the strongest terms:

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.

Later the Loving v. Virginia decision would be a significant precedent for the Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015, making it possible for same-sex couples to be legally married.

The “Loving” movie, written and directed by Jeff Nichols, stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. It is very much their story, with most of the legal issues and court appearances taking place off screen.

There is a superb documentary called The Loving Story. And TIME Magazine has a portfolio of the LIFE Magazine photos of the couple taken by the photographer played by Michael Shannon in the film.

When the lawyer asked Richard Loving what his message was for the Supreme Court, he said one sentence that was more powerful and eloquent than all the legal arguments: “Tell the judge I love my wife.”

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Race and Diversity The Real Story
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