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Loving (2016)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/7/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/2/2017

I've mentioned before that despite the fact that I write a great deal of negative reviews, I don't go out of my way to do so. I want every movie that I watch to be good. I don't want to feel as if I'm wasting my time watching terrible movies. I'm cheering for them to be good. In a very similar vein I want to see (most) filmmakers be successful. I want them to hit a home run every time, even thought that's not especially realistic. So, when I see a director go into a slump, it's not something to be celebrated. Jeff Nichols made an impressive jump to bigger movies with his sophomore outing, Take Shelter. But, he really stumbled with last year's tone-deaf Midnight Special. Well, as it turns out, that wasn't the only movie which he released last year and, as Loving proves, it wasn't the only disappointing one.

Loving opens in rural Virginia in the last 1950s. Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga) are in love and she is pregnant. There's only one problem -- he's white and she's African-American. They travel to Washington, D.C. to get married and then return home to begin their lives. Not long after this, they are both arrested and Mildred is forced to spend the weekend in jail. A judge informs them that if they are to remain a couple in Virginia, that they will go to prison. So, they movie to Washington to live with some of Mildred's relatives. However, she hates the city. She's a country girl at heart and she can't tolerate the idea of raising their (now three) children in the city. The couple devise a plan to move back to Virginia and simply lay-low. In addition, the ACLU get involved with Richard and Mildred, determined to see love triumph over hate.

Despite the fact that you've just read a synopsis of Loving, let's recap the film's story. When we meet Richard and Mildred, they are already a couple and she is pregnant. We never learn how they met, how long they've been together, and whether or not they got pregnant on purpose. We see them travel to Washington, D.C. to get married, but we aren't told why they go there for the ceremony. We see them arrested and jailed, but we are not told specifically why. We they truly doing something which was against the law or was did this occur at the whim of the bigoted Sheriff (Marton Csokas)?

Why am I spelling out these events? To illustrate how Loving knows that it is telling a true story, but has no interest in being a detailed story. Writer/Director Nichols has the very easy task of simply recounting the real-life story of Richard and Mildred Loving, but instead, he has chosen to make a quasi-art movie. In the extra features included on this release, Nichols states that he wasn't interested in making a court-room drama, but instead he wanted to make a movie about relationships. Well, he certainly failed there, as the bond between Richard and Mildred is never made clear. We are told that they love one another and we see how they stick together through times of strife, but there is no chemistry between them whatsoever, and the fact that Richard is a very stoic man doesn't help. (And Edgerton's mumbly performance adds insult to injury. Thank God for subtitles.)

The fact that Loving completely misses the mark, as the real-life story illustrates an important point in the Civil Rights Movement. The Lovings took their case all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States and their story made the national news. However, history has overlooked their tale and it's definitely one worth telling. Nichols has decided to push the specifics of the true story to the background and focus instead on lots of shots of people staring into the distance. This approach makes the film drag and the second act is very repetitive. As if I needed any more evidence that this is not a good movie, the point was driven home at the very end, as the text which preceded the end credits was the only moment of the movie which brought forth any sort of emotional reaction.

Loving also offers a lot of symbolism involving bricks and cinder blocks on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the picture is never overly dark or bright. The picture delivers an impressive crispness, most notably in the daytime scenes, and the depth is good. The level of detail also works well. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The opening drag race scene delivers some nice surround and subwoofer effects. The remainder of the film is somewhat quiet, but the score never overpowers the talking.

The Loving Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Jeff Nichols. "Making Loving" (4 minutes) shocked me with the reveal that Colin Firth served as a producer on this movie. Shame on you Colin. Other than that, we get comments from Nichols and the actors who discuss the story and the approach to the real-life narrative. "A Loving Ensemble" (4 minutes) provides an overview of the actors and the casting. "Loving v. Virginia" (4 minutes) has those involved in the film discussing the real-life story, but does not provide any photos or footage of the actual people. "Virginia: A Loving Backdrop" (3 minutes) provides yet more background on the story, and features a brief comment from Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long