“I’m pregnant.” These are two words that, taken together, strike a mix of absolute terror and complete awe in the hearts of those who hear them. In the case of the Lovings, these words were the start of their next adventure, but not quite the one they were expecting. On Friday, Feb. 25, Fairfield@Night stepped aside when organizing their weekly film to allow Student Engagement and the Office of Student Diversity to feature a film in honor of Black History Month. Not only did their choice of film, “Loving,” lead to an Oscar nomination for Ruth Negga’s performance, but it also shows the history of a little known but significant court case. They also chose “Loving” specifically because, according to Carrie Robinson from the Office of Student Diversity, “we felt as though interracial dating is still something that is an issue in America today and that ‘Loving’ would be a good movie to show around this issue.” What was unexpected was that Fairfield viewers would draw meaning and significance from the film to recent historical events.

The film “Loving” is based off of the 1967 court case, Loving v. Virginia, and the story that surrounds it. It begins with protagonist Mildred Jeter becoming pregnant and continues as she travels with her fiance to Washington, D.C. to be legally married. Upon returning to their home state, the newlyweds are arrested due to Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law, which did not acknowledge the legality of interracial marriages, regardless of the law in the state where the marriage occurred. When facing the choice between a year in jail combined with the termination of their marriage or spending 25 years unable to enter Virginia, their decision was difficult, but there was only one clear option: to leave Virginia.

In her role as Mildred Loving, Ruth Negga stole the show. Throughout the film, her expressions convey more than written lines could ever hope to capture through her ability to draw on such a large range of emotions with small but incredibly powerful gestures that bring attention to her scenes and make them all the more powerful. One of the most significant moments where she does this is after the couple’s departure from Virginia, when Negga is conveying Mildred’s desolation at being forced to leave her family. Negga does this through the smallest of looks and body language shifts that the camera captures in a way that ensures the viewer will notice it. Yet, the most impactful moment showcasing Negga’s skill in using these methods is in a scene where the feeling of longing and the weight Mildred places on each and every word her visiting sister, Garnet (Terri Jeter), says about their home and family is almost heartbreakingly tangible.

Negga’s talent continues to shine through these small looks and gestures — the pure emotion she conveys that utterly convinces the audience that this is truly Mildred Loving — when Mildred receives a phone call telling her that Attorney General Bobby Kennedy has received her letter and that the American Civil Liberties Union will be taking on their case, cost free. The radiant hope that shines through Mildred’s eyes and every motion she makes completely transforms Mildred from a desolate woman trying to retain her happiness through the children and husband she loves, to one with a chance to be reunited with her family and the town she loves.

“My favorite moment from ‘Loving’ is when the press is recording all around [Mildred and Richard] and shouting questions, but Richard and Mildred are just sitting staring at each other and not saying anything, but you can see the love they feel in their eyes and how they are riveted solely on each other,” Dominique Jackson ‘18 observed of Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton’s performance. It is no wonder that Negga was nominated for best actress at the Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 26.

As the film continues, the couple is thrown into a series of struggles as they fight for their right to love one another. From press interviews and photography sessions that neither is quite comfortable with to the prejudice that begins to follow Richard Loving at his workplace, the Loving family is terrified they will not make it to the end of the court case. Despite this, they are determined to persevere.

The Lovings lose at first. They lose in their home county in the state of Virginia, but Mildred remains hopeful, saying to the press that, “You may lose the small battle, but win the big war.” That is exactly what the family does. In a beautiful montage, the film concludes with the Supreme Court case, depicted almost only through sound overlaid with footage of the Loving family. Richard Loving working outside, his children playing in the field around him as Mildred observes over her own work with a smile. Mildred and Richard settling their children down for the night before exiting the room, arms wrapped around each other.

They win. And when Mildred receives the phone call informing them, she moves to the porch as she realizes that her family can no longer be taken away from her.

This film is a powerful historical drama covering a significant case in United States history that few people know about, or even think about. Yet, this topic is still relevant to us today as Sophia Bolaños ’18 noted, “History is almost repeating. This was the court case and the basis of the movement to legalize interracial marriage over fifty years ago, but the LGTBQ community just fought this same battle to gain the right to marry in the United States.”

“I didn’t know about the case before I saw this film, and it made me realize that loving someone is something that most of us take for granted,” Nadra Al-Hamwy ’18 said. Marriage is something that is mostly expected in modern society. Yet, to this day, it is not possible for everyone. Same-sex marriage was only just passed in several states and is still not legal in many places throughout the world. This film reveals a historical case few previously knew about that is entirely relevant to many people in the present day. If anything, this connection makes the film all the more impactful.

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-- Executive Editor Emeritus -- English Literature & Film, Television, and Media Arts

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