When Richard and Mildred Loving fell in love in the 1950s it was against the law. That provides the drama for the new movie Loving, starring Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton and directed by Jeff Nichols. See the two were of different races – she was black and he was white – which in 1958 meant not only was their courtship unseemly to Virginia society but which violated state law against interracial marriage. So the two were imprisoned, simply for being married.
The case against them was challenged, though, including going all the way to the Supreme Court. That journey through the legal system lead to those laws being found unconstitutional. So the movie follows the story of the Lovings as they not only try to remain together but also keep fighting against the racial ignorance of the time. The parallels to today’s struggles by various groups engaging in their own fights for equal rights should be obvious, so let’s see how it’s being sold.
The only poster really setup the basic premise of the movie, showing Edgerton and Negga sitting on a chair and embracing. The image is washed out like it’s had an Instagram filter applied to it. Or, more accurately, like it’s faded from spending years on the mantlepiece. Copy on the one-sheet tells us “All love is created equal,” which further explains the story. The movie’s status as a Cannes selection is mentioned just below the title and Nichols gets name-dropped toward the bottom.
We meet Richard and Mildred when the trailer opens as a young couple in love, just like any other. He’s determined to build her a house, which is a pretty clear metaphor for their life together. They decide to go up to Washington, D.C. to get married, but that doesn’t mean much when they get home and are immediately arrested for an illegal interracial marriage. But the couple is steadfast, refusing to back down. We see their lawyer wants to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court in an effort to make their marriage legal nationwide.
It’s designed to make you a little weepy and pull on your heartstrings, which it does pretty well. Edgerton and Negga look like they give outstanding performances as the Lovings and they get pretty equal screen time, though he’s seen driving the action and motivations much of the time. Still, it’s an impactful trailer that shows just what the situation was a half-century or more ago and it’s clear we’re going to not only be watching a historical event but also an allegory for today’s legal battles around marriage and other issues.
One more trailer hit after the movie’s Toronto premiere (more on that below) that’s not too terrible different from what’s come before. If anything there’s a bit more of Negga’s performance that’s on display in a few shots here, likely a reaction to the positive buzz for that aspect of the movie that came out of Toronto. But more or less this is pretty similar to what we’ve already seen.
Online and Social
The official website opens with a bunch of motion video of scenes pulled from the trailer that helps set the tone for the site. There are a lot of calls-to-action on the front page, starting with a “See theaters” prompt to find where the movie is playing near you. Below that is a box prompting you to watch a TV spot. Over on the right side are links to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles for the movie.
Next on the right is a stand-alone site/app from the studios that encouraged people to use a special series of mixed-race couple emojis can be downloaded and used. Those were also available natively on Twitter using the “#VoteLoving” and “ThisIsLoving” hashtags. And the site encouraged people to share their stories of love with the hashtag, with some of those posts pulled into the site and displayed.
After that you can scroll down and explore the site in a couple ways, either with the “View All” option that mashes all the content together on the page or by clicking each section that appears in the left menu one by one.
Starting off with “Videos,” that’s where you can find the trailers, TV spots and clips along with video interviews from Vogue, The Hollywood Reporter and more. “Photos” has a handful of pictures, mostly production stills but also a couple of behind-the-scenes shots mixed in as well. That’s kind of mixed in with the “Cast & Crew” section, which has captions explaining who the actor and the character they play is. Bios for each actor can be clicked on as well.
“Press, Reactions & Reviews” curates press interviews and other news featuring the cast and Nichols. Finally, “Social” brings in a few photos from social accounts.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
There’s been quite a bit of advertising done. On TV spots like this tried to lay out as much of the story as possible in as simple a manner as possible, focusing on the fight for marriage equality and framing it in those terms. It’s sparse, without much dialogue, which is consistent with the stoic tone set by the rest of the campaign.
Ads were also run on social networks like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube that promoted the trailer. I’m sure there were other online ads run as well.
Media and Publicity
The first news about the movie really came at the Berlin Film Festival when Focus Features picked it up for distribution. It later screened at Canne, which gave Nichols a chance to talk about the story and what brought him to a story that was unlike what he’d done before. While there it picked up some very positive buzz, coming away being a seen as a shoo-in when awards season comes around. The movie was one of the few at Cannes to come out with any real awards buzz or consideration in what was seen overall as kind of a down year.
A unique promotional opportunity presented itself with “Loving Day,” which fell in the middle of the media cycle for the movie. The day is being organized by those who want to mark the significant societal impact the actual Loving couple had on marriage rights and more, with the day marking the anniversary of the court decision that gave the couple the right to marry.
Later on Negga talked about her audition process that landed her the role, her opinions on #oscarssowhite and other racial issues in the entertainment industry and more.
The movie was also selected as the opening film for the Austin Film Festival.
Negga talked at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the movie screened, about getting into character and the difficulties of the story along with other topics. And at the Austin Film Festival Nichols talked about how it was important to remember how with issues like this or the ones we’re dealing with today, it’s not just abstract ideas, it’s people at the core of what’s discussed.
The unexpected relevancy of the story continued to be a major focus of the press, popping up at the movie’s premiere and elsewhere. To hammer that home, it was chosen as the inaugural movie to screen at the National Museum Of African American History & Culture.
Edgerton and Negga both made the rounds of some of the talk shows to promote the movie as well.
I mentioned before that the TV spot conveyed the “stoic” nature of the campaign and that’s the vibe that is given off by most everything here. There are no big emotional moments and no rousing speeches in the campaign and you have to think if they were in the movie at least one or two of them would have been teased here. So their absence from the campaign makes me think that kind of thing isn’t in the full movie, which is in keeping with the time period the story is pulled from, when stoicism and keeping your emotions minimal was the way of doing things.
And that encompasses the movie that’s being sold as a whole. Negga and Edgerton obviously give amazing performances and that’s the main draw here. It’s interesting that Nichols’ name actually appears on the poster, a bar that other directors like Robert Zemeckis have failed to clear of late. That makes sense considering the solid reputation he’s built up over the last few years, though. At the end, the campaign sells a compelling story that, as has been reinforced time and time again, is just as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.