‘Loving’ reviews: Raves for Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton & director Jeff Nichols boost Oscar hopes

When “Loving” premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in May, it already seemed clear that it was a potential awards contender. It was finally released on November 4 in the US, and the reviews bear that out. As of this writing it has scored 77 on MetaCritic and 91% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes, with the strongest praised reserved for writer-director Jeff Nichols and his stars Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton.

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This “wrenchingly personal” drama tells the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving (Edgerton and Negga), an interracial couple who married in 1958, violating Virginia’s law against interracial marriage. They were convicted of the crime and exiled from the state. They fought back in court for nine years, until the Supreme Court struck down Virginia’s unjust law and legalized interracial marriage across the country.

That sounds like it has the makings of a flashy legal drama with the kinds of courtroom fireworks James Spader used to win Emmys for, but “Loving” is less about the law than it its about the lives of its title characters, and that focus is part of what critics admire about it. Nichols is “radically sure of where the heart of his story is” and makes us understand the Lovings’ predicament. And the performances he elicits from his leads have been described as “luminous,” “exceptional” and “fantastically quiet.”

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According to our Experts’ Oscar predictions, both lead actors will earn nominations. Edgerton ranks fourth for Best Actor (15/2 odds), while Negga is in third place in the Best Actress contest (9/2 odds). Director Nichols is on the bubble for Best Director in sixth place (28/1 odds), but his script is a solid bet for a Best Original Screenplay nomination in fifth place (14/1 odds). For Best Picture, “Loving” is positioned well in fifth place (11/1 odds) — the motion picture academy will nominate up to 10 films for the top prize.

Check out some of the reviews for the film below, and join the discussion in our movie forum.

Manohla Dargis (New York Times): “There are few movies that speak to the American moment as movingly — and with as much idealism — as Jeff Nichols’s ‘Loving,’ which revisits an era when blacks and whites were so profoundly segregated in this country that they couldn’t always wed … Here, in scene after scene, the story of the Lovings is nothing if not wrenchingly personal.”

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Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times): “[Nichols is] also helped greatly by his two stars, a luminous Ruth Negga, memorable in John Ridley’s ‘Jimi: All Is by My Side,’ who is transcendent as Mildred, and Australian actor Joel Edgerton, whose involvement in the role of Richard grows as the film progresses.”

Jessica Kiang (The Playlist): “Nichols, aided by his exceptional lead actors, is so radically sure of where the heart of this story is, and invests us so sincerely in it, that there is no moment at which we do not feel, really feel, the cruelty of the Lovings’ predicament.”

Bilge Ebiri (Village Voice): “Both actors are fantastic, and fantastically quiet: Edgerton’s silence speaks volumes about the shame Richard feels at having to put his wife through such horrors. Negga, meanwhile, gives Mildred a matter-of-fact rectitude: This is not noble suffering; she just wants to get on with her life.”

Predict the Oscar nominations now; change them till January 24

How will “Loving” fare at the Oscars? Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how each film is faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on January 24 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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