Actress in a Leading Role - Ruth Negga
Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton play Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial married couple in Virginia who are arrested and prosecuted for violating anti-miscegenation laws (the laws preventing interracial couples from marrying before 1967). This story follows their relationship, the births of their children, their treatment by their respective communities, and the family and friends who supported them during this difficult ordeal. But it also follows the group of lawyers who decided to fight this unjust and unfair law, and much like modern times, it's hard to discern how anyone marrying each other affects the lives of anyone else in the world enough that justifies the government to regulate it. If you can't see the connection between the Loving story and current conversations about gay marriage, you're not learning the lessons of history about which this film teaches and reminds us.
Ruth Negga plays this part to perfection. She is not angry, she is not yelling at anybody; but she is graceful, she is ardent, she is full of conviction, and she simply wants to raise her family and love her husband. She doesn't want attention, but she uses attention wisely and effectively. Negga fully embodies Mildred Loving, who, if this film is to be believed, was a remarkable woman. Frankly, Joel Edgerton's performance is so understated, steady, and powerful, I'm surprised he didn't receive a nomination himself.
This film is methodical and quiet - not what one would expect from a movie about fighting injustice. The story is exceedingly normal, the couple isn't delivering fiery speeches, they are living too normal a life. I know some found this to be too slow to capture their attention - what's exciting or engaging about watching people sit on a porch and hold hands, or even sit silently in jail? Why is that cinematic? But if you can get past expectations that anyone other than the lawyers (Nick Kroll - who knew you could do that so well?) will deliver monologues about injustice, then you will see what made Loving such a brilliant film. It is in the normality of the Loving's lives that we understand the real message - people are not asking for nor expecting special rights in an equal America, but America must be equal for IT to be special. That's all there is to it.