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Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star in a scene from the movie "Loving." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Focus)

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NEW YORK (CNS) -- Dignity and understatement are usually noble qualities in a film. "Loving" (Focus), the fact-based story behind a landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision, is so restrained and decorous, however, that it nearly obscures the historical significance of the events it recounts.

Partly that's the result of the portrayal of Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton). This white Virginia bricklayer, one of the movie's two main characters, is shown to be taciturn, monosyllabic, almost stone-faced. The only fleeting emotions he expresses are terror whenever strange cars appear on rural two-lane roads and a sense of humor while watching the sentimentalized South on offer in an episode of "The Andy Griffith Show."

Richard's serene African-American wife, Mildred (Ruth Negga), gets to display considerably more human qualities. It's she who kicks off their legal crusade -- which eventually succeeded in demolishing race-based legal restrictions onmarriage in the United States -- by writing to Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

Inspired by the civil rights movement, which she experiences only on TV, Mildred also understands the need for national news coverage.

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