Jeff Nichols’s Loving somewhat boldly attempts to embody the spirit of its subject without traditional movie moments. Depicting the lives of Richard and Mildred Loving (played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), whose marriage ultimately led to the Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of interracial marriage, the film honestly shows their hesitancy to the spotlight and their humble existence in 1960s Virginia. But while Loving mirrors their disposition in the face of their predicament – don’t expect dramatic courtroom scenes or much invasion from snarling racists – neither does it tell us much about them. The embodiment unfortunately isn’t illuminating to Richard and Mildred, and the stylist risk doesn’t work if we don’t also understand them.
The modest approach is somewhat of Nichols’s favored point of entry over his filmography; earlier this year his Midnight Special similarly refused genre rules, but it’s aloofness was one of its more intriguing (and love-it-or-hate-it) aspects. Take Shelter, still his best film, was all paranoia and psychosis and showed that he can achieve this embodiment in the unfolding of the film. Loving finds him at his most unassuming, an emotionally intuitive film that simply doesn’t work as well as it should.