I can’t even imagine the pain and anguish that must happen when a parent loses a child. After I became a dad 14 years ago it became hard for me to even watch movie scenes where a child was put in jeopardy or where the parents had to deal with a child’s death. This is something that no one should ever have to suffer but it must be worse when you, as the parent, are in a position where you feel there’s something you should have done to prevent it or could possibly do something to avenge it.
That’s the premise of The Secret In Their Eyes, starring Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Chiwetel Ejiofor. The three are a team of investigators who one day get a call that a body has been found, a body they soon find is that of Jess’ (Roberts) daughter. Unfortunately they can’t make the case against the suspect everyone knows, but can’t prove, did it. Years go by and they go their separate ways until Ray (Ejiofor) uncovers new evidence that connects him to the crime. But they can’t get Claire (Kidman) to reopen the case so they struggle with how to exact justice outside the system.
There’s not much to the teaser poster. It’s just the title treatment and the names of the three main actors. It kind of does setup a serious drama, but that’s meeting the design much more than halfway.
Three character posters followed. On each one you get one of the three leads in extreme close-up, their face taking up most of the frame, their name at the top and black band stretching across their eyes. On that strip is both the title and some sort of tagline that’s unique to that character, possibly tying into their role in the story in some way. So Ejiofor gets “Don’t look closer,” Roberts gets “Don’t look back” and Kidman gets “Don’t look away.”
These are pretty good and do much more to set up the story and the mystery that lies at its heart.
The final theatrical one-sheet maintains the design from the character poster with a horizontal strip a third of the way down the image. This time though that strip shows the eyes of all three actors whose faces are hovering over the LA skyline. Their names are at the top, below the promise that this comes “From the writer of Captain Philips,” which is fairly obscure. Below the skyline we get the copy “The truth lies in the most unexpected places,” which promises some sort of twist in the story to raise this above a standard procedural mystery.
The posters are…alright. They’re a bit uninspired design-wise, but I do like how they hint at some sort of mystery in the movie that the trailers, as we’ll see, don’t.
The first trailer starts off by introducing us to the team dynamic among the investigators as Jess teases Ray about a crush he has on Claire. They’re called to a crime scene and that’s where they find it’s Jess’ daughter that’s been killed. But they don’t have enough to stick the case to the suspect, who is clearly gloating over how he’s going to get away. Years pass and we see Ray and Jess reunite as he tells her and Claire that he’s been continuing to work the case, which Claire is loathe to reopen. Jess, though, is hellbent on revenge and it becomes a case of trying to build a real case both to catch the guy and to do so before Jess does something on her own.
It’s a nice tight trailer that works pretty well at selling an adult-oriented thriller. It’s clear that the focus is on the performances by the three leads. Not much to say about it outside of that other than that I’m guessing there’s a twist that’s not even being hinted at here, which is a nice change of pace from most trailers these days.
The second trailer skips the character nuance and skips straight to the murder of Jess’ daughter and the drama surrounding the investigation into the killing. We get a few new scenes but it makes the same general points as the first one.
It’s shorter but hits many of the same beats the second half of the first trailer does and works in largely the same ways.
Online and Social
The movie’s official website is a pretty bare-bones one. It opens by playing the second trailer and when you close that you see a recreation of the theatrical key art.
“Story” is the next section, offering a four-paragraph synopsis that does more to hint at some sort of twist in the story that the rest of the marketing really doesn’t. “Videos” has both trailers, a couple of the TV spots and a featurette with the cast. Finally “Cast” skips the usual career overviews for descriptions of the five main characters in the movie and what their motivations for action are.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
There were a number of TV spots created and run that largely played as mini-trailers with mostly the same footage. Some like the one below featured more scenes between Jess and her daughter, which is a nice addition.
Some online ads were run as well, including Twitter Promoted Posts.
Media and Publicity
Roberts would talk about how difficult it was to shoot a movie as emotionally heavy as this, including specifically the day they filmed her character finding her daughter in the dumpster and how that affected her as a parent. She would also talk about how the moral ambiguity of the story – again, something the marketing doesn’t dive too deeply into – gave the film more realism and prompts the audience to do some soul searching themselves.
It’s not a bad campaign. I like the consistency between the individual elements, particularly the website and posters. And the trailers do a good job of setting up the movie’s essential components without spoiling whatever the twist (I have a couple theories) in the story are. Finally, the emphasis on the characters and the actors playing them works well for what looks to be a character-driven drama like this.
But I’m guessing this isn’t going to do much beyond prompt people to say “Looks decent…I’ll get it from Netflix.” This is, like many other recent releases, the kind of mid-level adult-focused drama that is going to do like $25 million in theaters and then disappear. It looks like a good movie, but there are just more attractive choices out there. It’s not a blockbuster like Spectre and it’s not an awards-contender like some current and upcoming releases. So it’s likely it will fall between the cracks as it fails to make a compelling case to an overwhelmed audience.
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