The Loving Story

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The Loving Story Movie Poster Image
Love story that led to Supreme Court case; racist language.
  • NR
  • 2011
  • 77 minutes

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Positive Messages

Documentary tells the story of the Loving family, an interracial couple who went to court to have their marriage recognized in Virginia and any other state that had banned interracial marriages, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court in 1967. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

While they were not Civil Rights activists, Richard and Mildred Loving had the courage of their love for each other to stand up against a racist law in Virginia that made it illegal for interracial couples to get married in the state, a crime punishable by prison time. They were forced into exile outside of Virginia, and faced hostility as well as the challenges of ordinary citizens reluctantly placed in the national spotlight. 


Archival film footage of a Ku Klux Klan member giving an angry speech in which he uses the "N" word, and calls the kids of mixed-race parentage "mongrels" and "half-breeds." Archival footage of Southern white men speaking condescendingly of their relationships with the African Americans in their community, use the "N" word repeatedly. Racist term to describe Native Americans. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Much of the movie features archival film footage of the Loving Family at their home in rural Virginia, where Richard and Mildred are often shown smoking cigarettes. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Loving Story is a 2011 documentary about an interracial married couple's fight to overturn state bans on interracial marriage, leading to a historic Supreme Court case. There's archival footage of a KKK member giving a speech in which he uses the "N" word, and refers to the kids of interracial couples as "half-breeds" and "mongrels." Archival footage of Southern white men speaking condescendingly of the African Americans in their communities while using the "N" word to refer to them. Racist term used to describe Native Americans. There's cigarette smoking throughout. This documentary relies on archival footage and contemporary interview footage with the lawyers who defended the Lovings to show how racism had become part of the laws of most states and was interpreted as such by state judges who affirmed these racist views in their judgments.  

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What's the story?

THE LOVING STORY is a documentary that tells the story of the landmark Supreme Court case, Loving v Virginia, that overturned state laws banning interracial marriage. It tells the story of Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Loving, who was part African American and part Native American, a couple from rural Virginia who fell in love and got married in Washington, DC in 1958. Shortly after returning to their home, local police raided the home and entered their bedroom. The police informed them that their marriage wasn't recognized in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and was a violation of the "Racial Integrity Act of 1924." While they were sentenced to a year in prison, the sentence was suspended on the condition that they not return to Virginia as husband and wife. Exiled in Washington, DC, Mildred, homesick and unhappy with city life, wrote a letter to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who referred them to the American Civil Liberties Union. Two ACLU lawyers, Bernard Cohen and Philip Hirschkop, agreed to take their case. While unable to overturn their verdict while in Virginia courts where judges rendered judgments based on the viewpoint that God intended for the races to be separate because he put the different races on different continents, these verdicts opened up the possibility of taking the case to the Supreme Court. In 1967, nine years after their marriage, the Court ruled unanimously in the Lovings' favor, overturning the racist state laws banning interracial marriages that existed in 17 states, mostly in the South. 

Is it any good?

While the legal dramas that unfold in this documentary are certainly compelling, it's the Lovings themselves who remain in the viewers' memories. The archival footage of Richard and Mildred Loving in their home with their kids in rural Virginia inherently reveals the deep love they held for each other. It's a profound love that's enough to override their natural disinclination to be thrust into the national spotlight, a love that communicates so much more to the viewer than the legalese of Loving v Virginia, the landmark 1967 Supreme Court case that, finally, overturned racist state laws that made interracial marriage a crime. 

While the story of the Loving v Virginia case is an interesting story in and of itself, The Loving Story spends just as much time on the love Richard and Mildred had for each other, and by doing so, it reminds us of how ordinary citizens can bring about change simply by acting on the courage of their desires for basic freedoms. The Lovings were not gifted orators, weren't protesting on the streets. They were a married couple very much in love who wanted the right to be married in their own home state in their community, with their families and friends. The Loving Story beautifully renders this aspect of this historic moment in Civil Rights, and these moments of pure affection that they share while caught on camera is revealed to be so much more powerful than the screaming of racists and a judicial system that codified and upheld this racism for far too long. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Lovings and their struggles to be married in a state where interracial marriage was a crime punishable by prison time. What did you learn? What surprised you? 

  • What were your takeaways about the Lovings? Did they seem like they wanted to be central actors in a landmark civil rights case, or did they seem more like two ordinary citizens finding the courage to have their love affirmed and legal in their home state, where interracial marriages were illegal? 

  • How did The Loving Story show the prevailing attitudes of many Americans toward interracial marriages in the 1950s and 60s?  Have attitudes changed? Why or why not?

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