Loving the marriage debate

Review: Loving

(PG) Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga

The first year of any marriage can be a time of adjustment, but the challenges faced by Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga) exceed most other couple’s experience. Based on a true story, Loving is set in Virginia, USA, in the 1950s. Richard is white, Mildred is black but it’s against the state’s laws for interracial couples to marry. But Richard and Mildred still tie the knot, travelling to nearby Washington D.C., where interracial marriage is legal. Soon after they cross the border into their home state, the couple is arrested and spend time in jail. This leads to their eventual banishment from Virginia and forces them to leave behind the simple country life for the big city. They adjust to life, but constantly yearn for home in Virginia. During this changing time in America’s history, they eventually are able to gain the legal assistance they need that gives them hope of returning to their family and life. Through their willingness to stand up for their love for one another, they become the centre of the U.S. Supreme Court decision which ultimately invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

Sometimes love of a woman can make the simplest of men make the boldest decisions in their lives. This is what is  portrayed in the life of Richard Loving. He loved Mildred and she loved her husband. If director Jeff Nichols (Midnight Special) is able to convey anything through Loving, it is the long-term conviction that the real-life Lovings must have had for one another.

Australian actor Joel Edgerton (Exodus) provides the strong, silent and brooding nature of the bricklayer from small-town America. He shows that a man of few words can still communicate a multitude of things through his actions. Partnered with the quiet and courageous nature of Ruth Negga’s (Warcraft) interpretation of the sharecropper’s daughter, Loving had the potential to be an exceptional historical biopic. Nichols has been able to show the couple’s affection, but somehow misplaces the passion in their situation. As a director, he is known for understatement instead of the sensational, which does not complement this story. In trying to diffuse the sensational nature of this case and focussing on the Lovings’ simple life among the drama, Nichols inexplicably eliminates the emotion that must have been part of their lives. The couple’s tender hearts and conviction to one another is conveyed on screen, but it is challenging to the find the heart of the film.

Another area that Loving suffers is from ‘civil-rights movement’  fatigue. Showcasing these atrocities and ensuring that mankind does not go back to them is important. There is place for educating and entertaining the populace about this history. Hollywood has been mining stories from this era for the past few decades and there will be more in the future, but there has to be a fresh way of telling them. The challenge is finding something new to say. The Lovings’ 10 year saga is a fascinating analysis of America in the 50s and 60s, but all of it seems like a familiar journey for the audience.

Between Jeff Nichols’ measured storytelling style and the scripts’ familiar content, Loving produces more yawns than the tears and cheers, which should be the response from those watching.

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

What does the Bible really say about marriage? It would be negligent to not discuss this topic after seeing Loving. 

The official court documents show that Caroline County Circuit Court Judge Leon M. Bazile misused the Bible to defend his horrible verdict against the Lovings. In the end, his view on life and marriage was shown to merely be his opinion disguised as God’s position.

Some may think that the Bible does not have the answers to the big question of what a marriage should be. Thankfully, though, God does not leave this question unanswered and his word, The Bible, speaks to directly to it. Throughout the Bible, the answers are provided; even Jesus gives specific answers when asked for them.

As recorded in Matthew 14:4-6, Jesus said: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 

Marriage was God’s idea and is a blessing to mankind. There is freedom within his paradigm, but God does have a paradigm. Anyone’s opinion that differs from the Bible and/or Jesus’ statement on marriage is merely their opinion and puts that at odds from God’s view on marriage.

The Bible’s answers are accessible to all for consideration, but the reader must choose what to believe.

Passages on marriage
Genesis 2:20-24, Proverbs 19:14, Matthew 14:4-6, 1 Corinthians 7, Ephesians 5

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger




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