You accumulate a lot of baggage in a marriage. Even in a happy relationship, living with someone for an extended period of time means a lot of shared moments, some happy and some sad, and a lot of things that have been picked up along the shared road you’re traveling. In the best of circumstances that means you both know the crap you’ve been through, both individually and collectively, though in the worst of circumstances that can mean a thousand little resentments that are built up, accumulating like silt where a river empties into the sea.
This week’s new release 45 Years is about just such a long-term marriage. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtnay play Mara and Geoff Mercer, who are about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary with family and friends. But the festivities hit a speed bump when details about a woman who Geoff had known 50 years ago and died under mysterious circumstances come to light. Having never addressed the issue and now faced with potentially life-changing information, the couple struggles to deal with a past that had long been buried.
You can pretty much tell exactly what kind of movie this is going to be based on the first poster, and that’s not a bad thing. Courtnay is to the left of the image but a bit blurry. To the right of the poster is Rampling, looking at him as well as off in the distance. They’re standing in what appears to be a dreary countryside. So there’s not much going on, but this is clearly a relationship drama featuring these two and, honestly, if you’re a fan of great acting what else do you need to know?
The theatrical poster takes a similar approach in how it places the two actors, one in the foreground one in the background. But this time the setting is a party, presumably the anniversary party that forms the forward momentum in the story. This one is, of course, decked out with festival accolades and praise from critics. It’s a bit less effective than the first because of all the extra information around the design, but you still get the gist of this being a character drama about an older married couple.
The first and only trailer opens with scenes from a marriage. The two have been married a long time and are playful and obviously in love with each other and we see that they are planning a celebration for their 45th wedding anniversary. But then a letter arrives and he solemnly intones “They found her” and says she knows who he’s talking about. At that point the tone changes as we see there’s a long-simmering secret – or at least something they’ve never talked about – that has tainted all those happy years that now apparently is coming back to the surface. We never find out exactly what that secret is, but the rest of the trailer is filled with shots of the two of them individually or together, but looking more bitter than they were at first.
It’s a great trailer that sets up the relationships that form the core of the movie, showing us in broad terms who the couple are and hinting, without giving too much away, at the mystery that will drive the story. That mixed with the accolades from early festival and other screenings that are sprinkled here and there should make this work well on a certain portion of the audience.
Online and Social
The movie didn’t have a stand-alone site but was a page on IFC’s main site, a fine strategy for a movie like this that isn’t going to have a lot of content to call its own but still needs some sort of presence.
The trailer can be played in the header on the page (and is worth rewatching) and a rotating series of critic quotes from earlier screenings and festival appearances praising the movie appear below that header.
Keep scrolling and you’ll read a really good plot synopsis. Usually I criticize these for being too short but this one offers a lot of detail that’s not in the trailers. Maybe too much. That’s followed by a list of the festival awards the movie has racked up. Finally there’s a small gallery with several stills from the film as well as the official theatrical poster.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
I think there’s been a bit of online advertising done, particularly around garnering awards nominations, but nothing on TV.
Media and Publicity
Outside of positive buzz for the movie that came out of festivals and other screenings Rampling formed the core of the publicity campaign. The New York Times ran an extensive profile of the actress that covered not just this most recent movie but also her reputation in Hollywood and journalistic circles as well. That was also the theme of this New Yorker profile, which again touched on her “cool” exterior, as if it’s odd that someone isn’t gregarious and outgoing and ready to talk about everything in the same way younger actors like Jennifer Lawrence are. She also took part in a Hollywood Reporter roundtable where she talked about her career and approach to acting.
Director Andrew Haigh would get in on the press action to some extent, talking about casting the movie and how he actually kind of hoped the audience’s perception of the two leads that is based on their previous roles would come through and positively impact this movie.
It’s a nice campaign but I’m wondering how much all of this is necessary. The movie is of a type that lives or dies based on word of mouth, particularly whatever buzz it can build at festival screenings. A marketing push for movies like this has to be primarily focused on turning out audiences in the few cities where it will screen, so running any sort of mass-market campaign doesn’t make a lot of sense.
All that being said, I like the way this campaign, with the exception of the synopsis on the website, keeps the mystery that forms the impetus of the story hidden. That adds a sense of mystery to the marketing. That combined with the strong focus on the performances from Rampling and Courtnay make for a very attractive campaign for people who like quieter, more character-driven movies.