BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Loving couple who won fight against racism
The actress Ruth Negga may have been cut out of 12 Years A Slave, but she appears in practically every frame of the film Loving.
Ms Negga, who was born in Ireland, stars with Australian actor Joel Edgerton in Jeff Nichols's movie about a repugnant chapter in the fraught history of American Civil Rights.
The actors portray Mildred and Richard Loving: Mildred was black, Richard was white.
The actress Ruth Negga may have been cut out of 12 Years A Slave, but she appears in practically every frame of the film Loving
Director Jeff Nichols, Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton, pictured together at the Loving premiere in Cannes
In 1958, the couple travelled from their home in Caroline County, VirginIa, to Washington DC to marry because, due to old slavery laws, it was illegal for them to live as husband and wife just over the Potomac River in Virginia.
'People got incarcerated and punished for something that isn't a negative act,' said Edgerton when we chatted on the Majestic Hotel's beach in Cannes.
Mildred was thrown in jail, and released only after a Virginia court judge decreed that the couple should leave the state and not return for 25 years.
The case ended up at the Supreme Court, which later spoke with one voice in striking down the Draconian interracial marriage laws.
Edgerton and Negga gave fine performances as two people bewildered by the events that have engulfed them
When Richard Loving married his black girlfriend, Mildred Jeter, in 1958, a firestorm of publicity and a prominent footnote in the Constitution of the United States were the last things either of them expected
Loving: Ruth Negga as Mildred Loving and Joel Edgerton as Richard Loving (right), an interracial couple sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married
But Nichols's film concerns itself mainly with the Lovings, and the quiet, dignified way in which they held themselves. Their behaviour is embodied in the magnificent, understated performances given by Negga and Edgerton.
As Nichols noted: 'The film's an accumulation of small moments that reflect how they lived their life.'
What makes it work so brilliantly is the way Negga and Edgerton capture the teenage kind of frisson the Lovings had for each other.
When a lawyer asked Loving what he should tell the Supreme Court on his behalf, Loving responded: 'Tell them I love my wife.'
They were an ordinary couple. He was a bricklayer; she raised their kids.
Director Jeff Nichols, actress Ruth Negga and actor Joel Edgerton attend the premiere of Loving at the Cannes Film Festival
'He put one brick layer on top of another, and his scope of awareness of the world was not great. Yet I believe there was an innate human decency to him, because his instinct was telling him that something in those laws was not right,' Edgerton told me.
The film was shown at the Cannes Film Festival, where I watched it. Twice. I will see it again with my wife. And you can all catch it when it opens in the UK.
No date has been fixed yet but we're probably looking at the end of the year or early in 2017 — although I dearly hope it runs at the BFI London Film Festival in October.
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