In 1930s Tenessee, 31-year-old ‘spinster’ Laura (Carey Mulligan) makes a marriage of convenience to Henry McAllen (Jason Clarke) – despite being more attracted to his charming brother Jamie (Garret Hedlund). When the war breaks out, Jamie enlists, while Henry announces that he will be moving Laura, their children and his elderly father (Jonathan Banks) to a farm on the Mississippi delta.
Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan), one of Henry’s tenants, longs to own the land that he farms, as did his slave ancestors before him. His wife Florence (Mary J Blige) agrees to work for the McAllens, fearing what her absence might mean for her own children. Meanwhile their son Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) becomes a sergeant in a tank regiment, discovering that in Europe he’s seen as a liberator and a hero, not a second class citizen.
When the war ends, bringing Jamie and Ronsel home, the precarious balance of both family’s lives comes under threat.
When stand-up comedian Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is heckled by graduate student Emily (Zoe Kazan) at one of his shows, it leads to a flirtation, which leads to a one-night stand – and then, unexpectedly, to something more serious. But their blossoming relationship is about to hit two major roadblocks.
The first is Kumail’s parents, first-generation Pakistani immigrants who dote on their son but are determined that he will have a traditional arranged marriage. And the second is a mysterious illness which lands Emily in hospital, in a medically induced coma. As he waits anxiously by her side and wrestles with his doubts about their relationship, Kumail forms a bond with her parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter) which will change everything.
Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga) are young, in love and expecting a baby. The year is 1958: because Richard is white and Mildred is black, a marriage between them will be illegal in their home state of Virginia. In order to get married, they will have to cross state lines.
After a small ceremony in Washington they return to live quietly in the town of Central Point. But though their own rural community is relatively integrated, the state authorities have got wind of their relationship, leading to the couple being arrested after a night-time raid on their home. In order to avoid prison time, they must accept a 25-year banishment from the state of Virginia, meaning a separation from family and friends.
As the years pass and their children grow up in the city, Mildred in particular misses her home, and begins to wonder if anything can be done to overturn the ruling. A phone call from the American Civil Liberties Union ignites her hope – setting this unassuming couple on the path to changing history.