'Loving' Is The Most Powerful Movie You'll See This Year, Regardless Of Your Background
I cried during a lot of Loving, but one of the parts that got the tears flowing the most was when Richard and Mildred Loving's lawyer, Bernie Cohen, told the couple that that the argument the state would use when their marriage legality case was taken to the Supreme Court was that it was unfair to bring children of mixed race into the world — something that the couple had done by marrying and having three children. The idea that three children who already exist would have their state's government say that their parents having them was "unfair," would hit anyone hard, as will much of the film. But because I'm biracial and from Virginia, my reaction was more specific. After all, if it weren't for the Lovings' Supreme Court win, I might not exist.
I was born in 1989. Loving v. Virginia, which made laws prohibiting interracial marriage unconstitutional, was only decided 22 years earlier in 1967. Yes, the world was very different place in 1967 versus 1989, but 22 years seems like a very short amount of time to go from an interracial couple being arrested and forced to move out of state after secretly getting married, like the Lovings did, to an interracial couple freely being married and having a child in the capital of that same state. As the years passed in Loving (their Supreme Court case took place nine years after they found out they married) I couldn't help but think, "How did it take so long for this to happen? How is it possible that I was born only 22 years after the world was like this?"
While my parents are an interracial couple who married in Virginia, their lives were far different from the Lovings'. My dad is from Wisconsin and my mom, while she grew up in Virginia, is from Richmond, not the rural Caroline County where the Lovings lived. The Lovings were incredibly attached to the land they were from — to the point where they ended up living there in hiding, illegally — whereas my parents moved around much more easily. But still, the fact that the Lovings' case happened, allowed my parents to decide they wanted to marry in Virginia — or, technically, to have the option to marry in any state — and to have a child there. So for me, Loving was an emotional experience because it shows what came before and what could have been if it weren't for this resilient couple.
Ruth Negga, who plays Mildred, also felt a personal connection the Lovings' story. Negga is of Irish and Ethiopian decent and spent her adolescence in London. She's "a world person," as she told me at the New York premiere of Loving. But even though she's not American, being from multiple cultures allowed her to relate to the movie in a specific way. "I just feel it's important to see one’s self reflected in art," she said. "And I know that a lot of people feel that way, have said to us after screenings, 'Thank you for telling our story.' Because there are so many stories, especially around the Civil Rights era, that have not been told yet."
Obviously, I was heavily affected by the film because of my personal connection (even the just way Virginia was filmed made it a visceral experience), but there are many levels in which someone could feel connected to this story, the broadest being that it's about love and about family — two ideas that most people can relate to. As Alano Miller, who plays Raymond Green, Richard's best friend, in the film, told me at the premiere, "At the end of the day this is about us. This is about our simple story that we all love. Period. This is a couple that weren’t activists; they were just simply two people who said, ‘Look, I want to love who I love.'"
And even if you aren't moved by the way love in depicted in the film (which, honestly, would be hard), the story is relevant in a big way because the case itself recently had a very strong effect on our modern world: Loving v. Virginia was the precedent used when the Supreme Court ruled in the 2015 case Obergefell v. Hodges that states could not restrict gay marriage. Plus, just in a film sense, Loving has a diverse cast and is telling a story that not everyone has heard — that's something that we need more of in film in general, and it's only going to happen more if films like this are given a chance. This movie might relate very closely to my world, but it also shares an experience with people who don't relate and does so in a very real way.
At the Loving premiere, director Jeff Nichols talked about the responsibility he felt to Richard and Mildred. "When you're telling a true story, when you're telling a story about real people, you have to be reminded that they were life and blood people. That they walked around," he explained. The idea that the Lovings were real, were real people who watched TV together, had jobs, ate dinner as a family, loved each other, did all of these things that their home state's law made illegal, can hit hard for anyone. It'll hit harder for a mixed girl from Virginia, sure, and it was an amazing and much appreciated experience to be able to relate to a story so strongly. But anyone can see the importance of Loving and of the Lovings — as evidenced by the tears I saw around the theater while the credits ran.
Images: Lia Beck; Focus Features (2)