Earlier this year, I attended a panel with Jeff Nichols, knowing little about him other than the fact he'd directed a McConaughey movie called Mud awhile back. He was still in production for Loving at the time, but he said this about the project: “it’s the most beautiful love story I've ever heard. I can't wait for you to see it.”
I went home, watched his movies, cried a lot, and before long I had proclaimed him my favorite director. His movies access something wordless within me, capturing a sense of wonder and tragedy, a doubt-filled longing for love and belief. Jeff Nichols has the rare gift of crafting characters that speak volumes without saying a word. They aren't eloquent people, but everything we need to know about the difficult questions they're asking can be read clearly on their unremarkable faces.
You can imagine my excitement when I found out that Loving was going to be the opening night film at Austin Film Festival. But I was slightly worried he would miss the mark with his most Oscar-y movie yet. Thank God he stayed true to his flawless storytelling instinct.
Loving manages to address equality without being a "message movie.” Rather than making it about the civil rights movement, he chose to hone in on the quiet love story of a real-life couple, Richard & Mildred Loving, whose lives were affected by the unjust laws of their state. In doing so, we see a more realistic portrayal of the personal pain that systematic racism inflicts on everyday people.
More than anything, I believe Jeff Nichols’ brilliance as a filmmaker can be attributed to his humility. That's what struck me about the clean-cut young man on the panel before I saw any of his movies. The power of Loving, like everything else he's made, lies in his willingness and ability to get out of the way so the story can speak for itself in silent eloquence.