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Avon audience sees ‘Loving’ as major Oscar contender

December 23, 2016 GMT

The story behind the 1967 Supreme Court ruling that made interracial marriage legal throughout the United States is told in “Loving,” another of the critically praised year-end releases expected to receive Oscar consideration.

January Vogue cover subject Ruth Negga plays Mildred Loving and Joel Edgerton is her husband Richard.

After a long courtship in their rural Virginia community, Mildred and Richard got married in 1958, but were arrested a few weeks later when local police burst into their bedroom in the middle of the night. When the embarrassed young woman tried to explain that she was Richard’s wife, the sheriff told her “That’s no good here.”

The arrest was the start of a decade-long series of setbacks and legal victories that eventually resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court victory voiding the miscegenation laws that made interracial marriages a crime.

We had about a dozen people for our Hearst screening of “Loving” at Stamford’s Avon Theatre, and the group was unanimous in its praise for the low-key but very powerful film.

“A very well-acted movie and such an interesting story,” Holly Hyman, of Stamford, said. It was her first time at a Movie & A Martini meet-up, which she called “a fun night.”

Like several other members of the group, Hyman was struck by how perfect the real-life characters’ last name was for this story of tolerance and compassion.

In the free-wheeling discussion that followed “Loving” it wasn’t possible for this reporter to identify every commenter, but several people singled out the performance of Negga as the stoic Mildred, a woman of few words, but with an incredibly expressive face.

“Like a madonna. So tiny, but so strong,” one woman said.

While some of us wondered why the Lovings didn’t move to a northern state where their marriage would be legal, a man in the audience said, “They grew up in Virginia and wanted to stay there. And they didn’t have the money to make a big move.”

More than one member of the group saw parallels between “Loving” and the long battle for gay marriage, which wasn’t resolved until a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2015.

Several of the people who stayed for the discussion liked the way writer-director Jeff Nichols focused so intently on the personal side of the story. The legal machinations are kept largely offscreen as we see the emotional toll on the Lovings of having to live in exile in Washington, D.C., and having to sneak back into their home state to see family members.

Marion Beale, of Greenwich, liked the way the movie shows “ordinary people conducting their lives with great dignity.”

Another woman suggested to those who wanted more details on the case to check out the HBO documentary, “The Loving Story,” which was released in 2011.

The Supreme Court decision came six months before the Stanley Kramer film, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?,” was released, so it seems apt that “Loving” will receive the Stanley Kramer Award from the Producers Guild of America on Jan. 28. The honor goes to one film each year that raises public awareness of important social issues as Kramer did during his long career.

Our Avon audience and most industry observers believe “Loving” will also receive several Oscar nominations when the announcement of nominees is made Tuesday, Jan. 24.

jmeyers@heasrtmediact.com; Twitter: @joesview