The new movie Little Boxes tells an interesting and socially-relevant story. Melanie Lynskey plays Gina, who’s moved with her husband Mack (Nelson Ellis) and their son Clark (Armani Jackson) from the urban setting of New York to a small town in Washington State. That’s a brand new and very different setting for this mixed-race family, who’s used to the understanding and more of their old home.
All three wind up not knowing how to react to the new situation. Clark in particular struggles with being the only kid of color in this very white town, under pressure to both be himself and to act in a way that’s expected of him by the other kids. Likewise Gina finds herself in the middle of a sea of bored housewives who all have their own habits and cliques. In the middle of it all, Clark just wants everyone to get along as he deals with his own set of micro-aggressions from the white folks around him.
The one poster makes the premise of the story pretty clear, showing all three members of the family that’s been transported to the suburbs of the Pacific Northwest sitting on a couch that’s out in front of their new house. Boxes and wrapped-up furniture are sitting around them. Gina and Mack are looking off to the side like they’re lost in contemplation over their new life while Clark looks straight at the camera. Below the title, which is shown in huge block letters, are the movie’s festival credentials.
The trailer opens with Mack and Gina saying their goodbyes to their friends in New York before arriving in Rome, WA. We find out Gina got a job at the local college and soon see things get weird, as Clark is signed out as the token black kid, Gina is confronted by the wine-slinging wives and Mack is shown dealing with comments from the white guys he’s hanging with. Tensions mount as racism is seen everywhere, Gina has to work long hours and Clark’s budding friendships come under some scrutiny.
There’s a lot to like about this trailer. Sure, it might seem a bit overwrought and unsubtle at times, but the performances of Ellis, Lynskey and Jackson compensate for a lot of that. It’s sold as a mix of fish-out-of-water story and warnings ab out confronting how you deal with race in your own life, which is a timely combination. This could be a disaster in execution, sure, but this trailer makes it look like an attractive option for those who like a little social commentary in their indie dramas, not just another story of a dysfunctional family of white people.
Online and Social
The only online presence found is a Facebook page where the studios have been posting updates about screening information, new posters and trailers and so on. Other than that, there aren’t pages on the sites of either FilmBuff or Gunpowder, the distributors.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Similarly, nothing here.
Media and Publicity
Most of the press for the movie has come around festival screenings or business transactions. It had successful screenings at a few events in 2016, including the Tribeca Film Festival, where digital streaming rights were picked up by Netflix. It wasn’t until earlier this year, just back in February, that it was bought for distribution by Gunpowder and Sky (formerly FilmBuff) and a theatrical release plan decided on.
Those festival screenings were mostly positive, which is what lead to the above deals. But there doesn’t appear to have been any effort put into a press push in advance of this week’s release. As the Facebook page shows, initial distribution isn’t extensive and I’d imagine it will be when it comes to Netflix that most people will be aware of – and be able to see – the movie.
No one is going to mistake this movie or this campaign for a huge studio release. It pretty effectively sells, though, a character-driven story about combatting implicit and other racism that exists in society. In that regards it almost seems like a lower-key version of Get Out, with a more explicit racial angle but told in a much more traditional way, without the trappings of horror. At least horror other than that which exists in the cul de sacs of suburban America.
The focus here is on the performances of the three leads, particularly Lenskey and Jackson. The latter specifically seems to be given a lot of the emotional heavy-lifting of the story as he’s just a kid who’s still learning who he is as an individual and how to act with those around him. Moving is hard enough on kids, it’s even harder under circumstances that cast you as the outsider almost immediately and by default. Lynskey, who’s proven herself a high-caliber talent in other small movies takes on the rest as she’s torn between her professional commitments, her family and the social circles that want to pull her into their orbit.