Ruth Negga earned an Academy Award nomination for her performance in Jeff Nichols’ intimate drama.
Loving (2016), Jeff Nichols’s portrait of Richard and Mildred Loving, does more than put a face to a landmark Supreme Court decision. Their 1958 marriage was a crime in the state of Virginia because Richard (played by Joel Edgerton with a terse determination) was a white man and Mildred (Ruth Negga, vulnerable yet hopeful) was a black woman. But this is not the portrait of a defiant couple protesting all the way to the Supreme Court. The title is more than just a form of shorthand or a clever double-meaning. It is the core of the film. This is about a marriage, a couple deeply in love and devoted to their family, who just want to live together in their home state.
Their courtship is presented in snapshots yet from the beginning it’s like they’ve been together forever, laying in one another’s arms with a natural intimacy. They live in an integrated pocket of blue collar families that could be a planet away from the segregation of the cities. When Mildred tells Richard she’s pregnant he beams with a rare smile, like it’s the sign he’s been waiting for, even if they have to sneak across the border to Washington D.C. for the ceremony and set up a household in secret. Negga earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her performance as Mildred and Australian actor Edgerton received a Golden Globe nomination for the stolid Richard, a man who looks like a redneck stereotype under his buzz cut and tight mouth yet is like a member of her family even before they marry.
Rogue: The Complete First Season (eOne, DVD) is satellite TV’s answer to the pay cable original series. Produced for DirecTV’s Audience Network, it stars Thandie Newton as Detective Grace Travis, an undercover cop in Oakland working for a gangster named Jimmy Laszlo (Marton Csokas) when her young son is killed in a drive-by shooting. For reasons that are never really explained, she has a feeling that something else is behind his death and goes rogue when the official investigation goes nowhere, ending up in this shadowy place between the cops (with her former contacts serving as conduits of information to and from the police) and the crooks. Jimmy finds out she’s a cop but keeps her alive as long as she supplies him intelligence, because the same shooter who killed Grace’s son is also after him and his gang.
So yes, there is some sort of conspiracy here, with at least one corrupt cop, a mole in the force leaking information to Jimmy’s organization (including Grace’s true identity), and a power struggle between Jimmy’s two sons, the loyal but impulsive Alec (Joshua Sasse) and the brilliant but manipulative Max (Matthew Beard). Meanwhile Grace tears her family apart on her obsessive quest, abandoning the living to lose herself on vengeance for the dead. That’s the part of the show that really convinces. The writers hit us over the head by repeatedly explaining this to us, mostly through her exasperated husband (Kavan Smith), but that doesn’t make Newton any less effective in her manic pursuit and self-destructive behavior. The danger and the violence is something of a drug to numb the guilt and the grief, and her reckless pursuit finally lands her on the wrong side of the cops. Ian Hart plays an Oakland Detective with tendencies that land him in a compromising position and Ian Tracey (a veteran to two great Canadian crime shows, Da Vinci’s Inquest and Intelligence) is a San Jose colleague who left the field for a desk job, and they are the only guys in her corner.
This is another show shot in Vancouver subbing for the U.S., but the night shooting, industrial locations, grimy, gritty sets and liberal second unit photography makes the conceit work well enough even when it isn’t’ completely convincing. Being a DirecTV exclusive, the show also features the kind of gratuitous nudity and bloody violence unique to the pay cable model, and some of the episodes pour it on so thick it gets downright distracting. Ten episodes on four discs, plus the featurette “Script to Screen” and ten webisodes of “Rogue Files: Reparation.” And for the record, a second season is in production.