Writer-director Jeff Nichols is already having a fantastic year that will most likely continue to impress; the auteur was met with acclaim earlier this year with the release of Midnight Special, and is now receiving the same positive feedback at the Cannes Film Festival with his latest feature — Loving.
The historical drama follows Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), the interracial couple who violated Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws in 1958. Becoming an icon for interracial and black rights, the couple brought their case to the Supreme Court. The resulting case, Loving vs. Virginia, overturned the laws in 1967.
After learning about the story behind Loving, it’s clear why its receiving such positive attention and Oscar buzz. Focus Features clearly sees its potential, and has given the title a release date smack in the middle of awards season — November 11. Critics praised Nichols’ direction and humility, stating that he does not make the film too showy and pandering. Although this tactic seems like it would work in his favor, the Academy usually devours the movies that are showy and dramatic, and Nichols restrained feature might not have the hard-hitting grandiosity needed to break from a nominated to winning film.
Here’s what critics had to say about the film:
“Powerful, understated performances from Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga carry director Jeff Nichols’ oh-so-sensitive portrait of a mixed-race marriage forbidden in 1958 Virginia.”— Peter Debruge, Variety
“Working with his regular collaborators, including cinematographer Adam Stone, production designer Chad Keith, costume designer Erin Benach, editor Julie Monroe and composer David Wingo, Nichols has delivered a timely drama that, unlike most films of its type, doesn’t want to clobber you with its importance. It just tells its story in a modest, even discreet way that well suits the nature of its principal characters.”— Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
“Loving is a tender ode that still regards its subjects in near-sacred terms. It’s a far cry from the dreary soul-searching that percolates throughout his other films, and in that sense represents an even wider commercial gambit than the sci-fi hook of Midnight Special. If Loving marks Nichols’ greatest step towards mainstream recognition, it’s a quietly progressive one.”— Eric Kohn, Indiewire
“It was surprising to hear that Nichols, who has otherwise created tight, nervous indie movies about men and the natural (or supernatural) world, was directing this film, and watching Loving, Nichols almost seems surprised himself. Or rather, he seems overly bound to his conviction to get a movie like this right, to not muck it up with awards season telegraphing and grandstanding. It may be unfair to Nichols, but it’s hard not to detect a hint of disdain in the way he has built Loving, formalism as critique of unbridled sentiment or something.” — Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair