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Loving

It’s difficult to imagine the police barging into your home, pulling you and your spouse out of bed, and arresting you for the crime of being married. But that’s the position in which Mildred and Richard Loving found themselves one summer night back in 1958. He, a white bricklayer, and her, a biracial woman of African heritage, had left their home state of Virginia to tie the knot, knowing full well it was still illegal to do so at home. Their arrests set into motion a nine-year legal battle which would result in a landmark court case over the constitutional feasibility of interracial marriage. In the meantime, the Lovings were barred from entering their home state for some 25 years. Given the subject matter, this latest effort from director Jeff Nichols could easily have been stuffed with oversized characters and sentimental courtroom speeches. Instead, he takes the opposite approach. The dialled back performances and lack of formal histrionics make the film’s tenderness all the more affecting. The film deals with the common sense demand that a heartfelt marriage be treated with respect. That the personal becomes so deeply political goes without saying, but Nichols takes care never to overemphasise the romantic essence of this story. A committed Joel Edgerton plays Richard, a simple man with a quiet and surly demeanour. All buzz cut and hard squint, his gruffness is softened by his complete devotion to his wife. Mildred (Ruth Negga) is a softly-spoken housewife with three rambunctious young children underfoot. But Negga reveals the iron will beneath Mildred’s gentle exterior. After the couple’s de facto exile, it is Mildred who first sets matters into motion by writing a letter to civil rights champion, Robert Kennedy. But when the ACLU unexpectedly calls with an offer of help, she demurs: “Well, I’ll have to speak to my husband.” National newspapermen and camera crews descend on their doorstep. It quickly becomes clear that neither husband nor wife are natura...