13 FILMS, INCLUDING LOVING (2016).
The Irish-Ethiopian actress Ruth Negga has eyes intentful enough to shift objects around on-screen—a near-telekinetic focus that can shove aside anyone crowding her path (as evidenced by her brash Tulip O’Hare in AMC’s Preacher). What makes her performance in Jeff Nichols’s Loving so quietly capturing is how long her character’s direct gaze is kept warily under wraps, deflecting scrutiny, biding its time. For good reason: in the real-life 1960s South, where the film is set, a direct look from a black person at a white man in authority was considered an affront—it could get you killed. Loving is based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an inter-racial couple whose marriage was treated as a crime in their home state of Virginia, and as a victory when the Supreme Court ruled in their favor, in 1967. It is Richard (Joel Edgerton, chiseled and hunkered-in) who is insistent at first on setting things right, then Mildred who proves the persistent one, seizing the baton when he starts to hang back, and whose eyes, no longer averted, are on the prize.