Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is more or less settled in his life as a janitor in Boston, far away from the family home in Manchester-by-the-Sea where they’ve lived for generations. That life is upended, though, when his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) is killed. That’s bad enough, but the divorced, childless Lee is shocked to find out Joe named him sole guardian of his teenage son Patrick (Lucas Hedges).
That leaves Lee needing to find a whole new dynamic with Lee and a whole new pattern for his own life. He needs to move back to his home town in order to not completely uproot Patrick and find a way to be responsible for another human being, something he’s never been particularly good at. It also brings him back into contact with his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and forces Lee to confront what caused them to split up. In other words it’s about the pain of not just death but of also finding new ways to relate to each other and the world around us. The movie comes from writer/director Kenneth Lonergan.
Just one poster for the movie, showing Lee and Randi talking along the shore of a river or inlet, the former looking down like he’s struggling with his emotions in the conversation as seagulls fly around them. The cast list is at the top, followed by a series of quotes from early reviews. Around the title treatment are just some of the movie’s festival credentials.
It’s a sparse poster, in line with the subject matter. What’s slightly surprising is that it focuses on the dynamic between the divorced couple and not between Lee and his nephew, which is the emphasis everywhere else in the campaign.
The first trailer packs quite an emotional wallop. It starts off with Lee bonding with his young nephew on a fishing trip. Fast forward several years and the kid is now a teenager when his parents are killed, leaving Lee as Patrick’s guardian. That’s not a role he fits into easily, though, and the rest of the trailer is about Lee at first trying to get out of the responsibilities he now finds himself saddled with. Eventually, though, the two of them start to figure each other out and begin to bond and open up.
That relatively simple description doesn’t do justice to the emotions in the trailer, which are significant. Lee is struggling with being someone he doesn’t feel he can be or needs to be. Patrick is hurting, of course, and even more offended when he feels like Lee is rejecting him. So the trailer is selling an emotional gut-punch, something that’s not going to let up on the heartstrings for more than a minute. The focus here is on the performance of Affleck, Williams and Hedges, with quotes from critics’ festival reviews being plastered all over to make it clear to the audience that this is an already-acclaimed movie that they can’t miss because there is plenty to talk about.
Online and Social
The official website loads with a front page showing the key art and much of the rest of the elements from the poster. In the upper left corner there are links to the movie’s Facebook and Twitter profiles.
Scroll down the site and the first section is the “Trailer,” which you should definitely watch again. Keep going and you can read the excellent “Synopsis” that sets up most of what you likely need to know before seeing the movie.
“Cast & Crew” actually has more information on the major players in front of and behind the camera, allowing you to read filmographies and career histories. Then there are five stills in the “Gallery.”
There’s even more information about the movie in the next few sections, starting with “About the Production.” That takes you into a history of getting the movie made, working with Lonergan and more. “Real New England” provides some insights into how the production found locations and captured the feel of the area. Finally “The Chandlers of Manchester By The Sea” has more from the cast and crew about the story and other aspects of the movie.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Doesn’t seem to have been any TV advertising done but there was plenty of online advertising placed that drove traffic buy tickets.
Media and Publicity
The film had its public debut at Sundance 2016, where it generated positive buzz for the emotional performances and was quickly bought by Amazon for distribution. While there the cast and crew talked about the story and what it was all about. Eventually Amazon announced it had partnered with Roadside Attractions on a theatrical release.
The movie was among those which debuted or otherwise screened at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. It was also pegged for the New York Film Festival. The movie was also among those selected for the Telluride Film Festival. That appearance included a career tribute for Affleck and gave him an opportunity to talk about working with Lonergan, something he’s done a few times now, getting into the headspace of his character and more.
The movie was also among those selected for the Telluride Film Festival. That appearance included a career tribute for Affleck and gave him an opportunity to talk about working with Lonergan, something he’s done a few times now, getting into the headspace of his character and more.
Lonergan was the focus of a substantial profile in The New York Times that covered the troubles he’s had as a filmmaker, the impetus behind making this movie, working with Affleck and lots more. The director later penned an appreciation for Williams’ performance, citing the unexpected depths she went to and the range she showed off.
A feature interview with Affleck came later that touched on how he got involved, the actor’s awards potential and his position in the industry as well as Amazon’s big dollar bet on the movie being a success. The idea that Affleck was uncomfortable with fame and was only stepping into the spotlight reluctantly continued to be the focus of the press with stories like this that talked about his career to date and the movie specifically.
There’s a ton of emotion in this campaign and it’s great to see. As with other movies from Lonergan, the focus is clearly on the relationships that are driving the story here. These are not shallow emotional waters we’re wading into, something that comes through in most every aspect of the marketing. The audience is expected to connect with all the characters, from Lee to Patrick to Randi, throughout the campaign.
Each individual element works really well and provides a more or less consistent brand identity, one that’s rooted in the intensely personal story being told. There are some issues – the poster is more focused on the Lee/Randi dynamic where the trailer is all about the Lee/Patrick relationship – but it’s the story that comes through loud and clear throughout the entire thing.