|Vogue November 2016
The actress, Ruth Negga, stars in the latest version of the story of Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, who, as a bi-racial couple, were not allowed to marry in a 1950's State of Virginia. The couple was raised in a community where it was not unusual for a 'mixed race' couple to form, yet they were forced to move to Washington, D.C. to marry and live. At the suggestion of another, Mildred wrote to then U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy to expose the injustice of Virginia's law that kept her from living her life where it was meant to be lived out, in her home state with her family and friends. Kennedy got the letter, and the Lovings became quiet activists who turned a personal desire into a national concern.
Their story is not unfamiliar to me. In 1996, Timothy Hutton, Lela Rochon, and Ruby Dee stared in a version of it. I recorded it from a television showing, and I have shown it to students for years. The tape doesn't include the last fifteen minutes of the movie for an unknown or resolved reason, but students don't need to see the whole film to be pulled into discovering real events of the Civil Rights movement in our country. Since it is the story of two 'star crossed lovers,' it captures their attention and draws them into the bigger ideas of the movement.
I haven't seen the 2016 film, "Loving," that is in theaters now. I'm not so sure that I will see it in a theater. I love Lela Rochon's portrayal of Mildred. She plays the role simply and with the naivete of the bigger world that I would imagine a mountain girl would possess. Hutton is awfully cute, and the Australian actor who plays him in the newest version may physically resemble Loving more, but he and Rochon have a chemistry that makes even the hardest nosed boys in any of my classes swoon a little bit. It is a love story after all. And though they faced a huge state bully, which hasn't changed much in light of how Virginia voted in the election, continued to be a couple. It didn't break them; they broke it.