The 2016 Cannes Film Festival seemed to have been full of either disappointing or polarizing films: The Neon Demon had looked worthy of anticipation, but “wildly divided critics” both critics at Cannes and on its actual release; Olivier Assayas’ follow-up to the exquisite Clouds of Sils Maria — Personal Shopper — was booed (though that makes it perhaps all the more intriguing) by some critics at its Cannes premiere; and Cannes darling Xavier Dolan’s all-star (Léa Seydoux, Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel) film, It’s Only the End of the World, was declared by Vanity Fair “the most disappointing film at” the festival. Now, the trailer for Loving — one of the only films to emerge from the festival not only unscathed, but highly praised (perhaps because it’s a more conventional drama than the others — particularly Demon and Shopper — perhaps because its subject matter, despite being a period piece, is highly timely, and perhaps because it could just be, well, quite good) — has been released.
Interestingly, despite being a more “conventional drama”-ish looking film, it’s written and directed by a director known more as an envelope pusher in mainstream (or at least mainstream-adjacent) American cinema: Jeff Nichols, of Take Shelter, Midnight Special, and Mud. The film’s title actually has duel meanings — it is both a love story, and Loving happens to be the last name of the real-life couple on which the film is based. Ruth Negga plays Mildred Loving and Joel Edgerton plays Richard Loving — two people who entered an interracial marriage at a time where so doing would inevitably result in scorn and persecution from a segregated, white supremacist society. (These period pieces — at least the ones that are well done — don’t so much feel like opportunities to say “look how far we’ve come” so much as to say, “look at the racist foundations of this place and understand how far we still have to go”; hopefully this one won’t come with too much back-patting.)
Following their marriage, the couple had to fight for nine years to exist as a family due to anti-miscegenation laws in Virginia; said laws led both Richard and Mildred to be sentenced to a year in prison for violating the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 — but the case was taken to the Supreme Court. Through Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court declared race-based marriage restrictions unconstitutional and ended bans across all states where they remained.
The trailer is relatively even-handed — and though it may amp up the Oscar-worthy sentimentality of the story (though far less than most trailers), the actual film is alleged to avoid schmaltz pretty much entirely. Variety wrote, following the Cannes screening:
Loving is a humble, soft-spoken film, in which no one so much as raises his voice or weeps in the face of undeniable injustice. Though it will inevitably factor heavily in year-end Oscar conversations, Nichols’ film is seemingly less interested in its own glory than in representing what’s right, and though it features two of the best American performances of the past several years, from Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga (neither of whom are American, hailing from Australia and Ethiopia, respectively), its emotional impact derives precisely from how understated they are.
Watch the trailer:
Here’s the poster: