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Head Over Heels

Documentary film explores universality of love

What does being in love feel like? Drew Emery’s (Grad ’89) documentary Inlaws and Outlaws chronicles the love affairs of couples—some straight and some gay—and weaves together their experiences to show the universality of love.

Viewers get to meet Virgil and Enid Wright, a straight couple who have been married for decades after being pressured by their parents to have a traditional wedding in a church. The film also presents Tammy Snow and Dayna Tolman, two Mormon women who dated secretly and could not make their relationship public until after one of them married a man. Chuck Lazenby is an elderly man still grieving the death of his partner of 50 years with whom he shared a picture-perfect—but secret—domestic life. Their stories both uplift and invite tears.

Emery, who studied theater at UVA, uses storytelling as an artistic medium and as personal catharsis. “We rarely sit down and tell our entire life stories,” he says. “For everybody in the film, I started at childhood, when their ideas of family and relationships were being formed. It’s a very therapeutic process and I think that’s why they opened up.”

Inlaws and Outlaws’ distribution is unusual and grassroots; after showing it at festivals, Emery was approached by churches that wanted to show the film to their congregants. To date, 438 individuals and organizations have hosted screenings as part of the film’s Hearts + Minds Campaign, including one last year at UVA. “It has since showed in places I never thought it would, all over the country,” says Emery, who is based in Seattle. “The film doesn’t have to be a subcultural artifact. It’s really about everybody.”