Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton in "Loving"

Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton in “Loving”

*Director Jeff Nichols and stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga were in Cannes Monday morning for the first press screening of their film “Loving,” about interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving, whose 1958 marriage violated Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws, which were eventually overturned by the Supreme Court’s landmark Loving vs. Virginia ruling in 1967.

According to the multiple reviewers, the film appears to be one of the year’s first major awards contenders.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Gregg Kilday:

Given the material, Nichols could have delivered a standard-issue courtroom drama, culminating with soaring oratory before the nation’s highest court. But he chose to take a different route — the American Civil Liberties Union, agreeing to take on the case, doesn’t enter the picture until more than halfway through the two-hour-three-minute movie. Instead, the film is centered around the Lovings themselves: Richard, played by Australian actor Joel Edgerton, and Mildred, played by the Ethiopia-born Ruth Negga.

Both performers should enter the best actor and actress conversations. Edgerton, who previously received good notices for his violent Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby and his conflicted FBI agent in Black Mass, plays Richard as a man of few words, who keeps his eyes down and his emotions bottled up. Negga, though not as familiar to American audiences, plays the more optimistic half of the couple, rooted to the land and protective of her three children. Michael Shannon also makes a brief appearance as a Life magazine photographer who captures an image of the couple that provides a powerful moment in the film, but his role isn’t large enough for supporting consideration.

Variety’s Peter Debruge:

In the half-dozen years since his breakthrough performance in Ozzie crime-family opus “Animal Kingdom,” Edgerton has demonstrated nothing short of full actorly commitment to a series of demanding roles. Until now, what he has never seemed capable of doing is fully relaxing into the skin of another character, and yet, under Nichols’ direction, he disappears into the role of Richard Loving. Behind the tobacco-stained false teeth, the “Sling Blade”-like underbite, the furrowed brow and close-cropped straw hair lives and breathes a simple man whose inner happiness derives from having found his soul mate. Maybe he should have known better, as his mother implies, than to marry a “colored” woman, but there’s no sign that her race plays any part in or obstacle to Richard’s connection to Mildred, whom Negga embodies with a quiet dignity and deep inner strength. (The fact that Mildred is herself part-white raises other unspoken questions about the legitimacy of an anti-miscegenation law.)