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Cannes 2016

Jeff Nichols’ Loving illuminates a period of dark social US history

Still from 'Loving' by Jeff Nichols
Still from 'Loving' by Jeff Nichols Ben Rothstein © Big Beach, LLC

Jeff Nichols's Loving is a potential Golden Palm winner at the 69th Cannes Film Festival. The story of Mildred and Richard Loving, she black and he white, made history in the 1960s in the US. It led to changes in the country’s constitution.


Mildred is pregnant with Richard’s child. He is so in love, he buys them a piece of land and takes her to the capital and they marry. But the marriage is not recognised in their home state.

They are arrested, tried and given the option of serving a year in jail or quitting the state for 25 years. They live miserably in Washington DC.

Mildred, missing her family and unable to bear watching her children grow up in an urban jungle, decides to take legal action.

While not ignoring the social impact of what Loving vs Virginia State achieved at the Supreme Court, 37 year-old American director Jeff Nichols opted to make a film about a love story rather than a courtroom drama.

"I think it’s the most pure love story in the history of the United States," he told the press in Cannes.

Nature, and especially Mildred’s attachment to the countryside, "plays an important role in the film" said Nichols as he commented on the work of his director of photography, Adam Stone. As present as nature is in the film, the story of the couple remains in focus throughout.

The actors, Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton convince in one close-up after another, although the mood of the film, and the length, could have benefited from one or two sad close-ups less.

In Loving Nichols and Stone, Negga and Edgerton give thought to social injustice, legal bravery or foolhardiness, as well as the role of intrusive and irritating media.

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