“Tell the court I love my wife.”
This powerful statement in the movie Loving was said by Richard Loving when asked by his lawyers if he had anything to say to the Supreme Court Justices. Spoken with courage, these simple words carried a heavy weight.
For an interracial couple in 1958, this meant danger. Richard Loving, a white man played by Joel Edgerton, and Mildred Loving, a black woman played by Ruth Negga, fell in love in the small town of Central Point, Virginia.
After Mildred became pregnant at the age of 18, they drove to Washington, D.C., in order to get married. However, after their return to Virginia where they started a family and began making a home, they were not only jailed, but banished from the state for being unlawfully married. Their marriage violated Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute, which prohibited marriage between people classified as “white” and people classified as “colored.”
Despite relocating to the inner city of Washington, D.C., where they attempt to raise their family, they desperately wish to return to Virginia. The story that followed would lead to one of the biggest civil rights cases in U.S. history.
The movie is an absolute masterpiece. Visually, it is beautiful. The Virginian countryside and the cramped streets of D.C. add strong realism to the setting. It is this realism that makes the movie so amazing. There are no misrepresented moments or exaggerations. There are no adornments or fabrications. The only drawbacks to this realism are the lulls where the plot does not seem to grab the audience’s attention.
However, even these lulls only add credit to the accuracy of the Loving’s journey. They were not very involved in their case, letting their lawyers do the work. Their only goal was to be able to raise their family in the place they call home. They did not care about fame or public recognition, although Mildred did understand the importance of their case to other potential interracial couples.
Edgerton and Negga did a phenomenal job in their roles. It is rare to see actors who can accurately and beautifully portray real people. Negga was the star of almost every scene, appearing both timid and courageous simultaneously. Edgerton’s performance was captivating with his use of facial expressions and body language to express the quiet, pensive man.
Loving is an important movie, telling a painful and still relevant real-life tale. Interracial dating and marriage are still controversial in some cultures. Much has changed in the U.S. in the last 45 years since interracial marriage was deemed legal.
Despite all the progress, many things remain unchanged. Alabama did not repeal its anti-miscegenation laws until 2000. In a poll in Mississippi in April 2011, 46 percent of GOP voters stated they believed interracial marriage should be illegal. According to a Gallup poll, in 2013, 87 percent of the U.S. supported interracial marriage between blacks and whites, which means 13 percent of America still opposes it. There are still numerous hate crimes against interracial couples, such as the stabbing of an interracial couple by a white supremacist.
The progress made is something to be proud of, though. It is something to continue to strive toward. To be able to say that 100 percent of U.S. citizens support interracial would be a huge step to ensuring an inclusive future.
Loving provides a beautiful look on the meanings of race, love and family. Take the time to learn about an important piece of American history. The movie is more than worth it.
Featured Photo Credit: Feature photo courtesy of Loving on Facebook.
Maleeha Coleburn is a freshman journalism and government and politics double major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.