Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston) has a nice life as we meet him in the new movie Wakefield. He’s married to a lovely woman Diana (Jennifer Garner) and has two wonderful daughters. He commutes from the suburbs into the city to a job he’s successful at. One day he snaps, though, and has had it with the boring and restrictive life that he realizes he’s not only stuck in at the present but will be stuck in for the rest of his days. A nervous breakdown ensues.

Instead of going out and buying a fancy car or something like that, Howard simply disappears from his life but doesn’t go far. In fact, he just moves into the attic of the abandoned house across the street from his own. That way he can still keep tabs on his wife and family while also being completely disconnect from them. What started out as a ludicrous – also hurtful and selfish – experiment drags on for weeks and months as he becomes more isolated and the people he used to love begin to move on with their lives.

The Posters

The poster sets out the premise and setting pretty well. It shows Cranston’s title character looking out a window toward Garner, who’s seen in the next house engaged in some sort of everyday activity. He’s clearly watching her and the copy point alludes to the situation by saying “What would your life be without you?” So it’s kind of clear (watching the trailer helps) that he’s removed himself from his family for some reasons but is still keeping tabs on them from afar. A few positive critical quotes are below the title treatment. The overall effect here is that he’s kind of a stalker, but a loving and benevolent one.

The Trailers

The first trailer introduces us to Howard Wakefield, who’s grown discontent with the sameness of everyday suburban life. So he holes up in a house across the street from his own where he can monitor his family and what’s happening as they increasingly worry about him. We see some glimpses from his past but also see that he’s committed to not returning to normality, growing more isolated as time goes on and never letting anyone know where he is.

It’s alright and certainly sells an interesting, original story. I could take issue with the way it presents Howard’s choice, which hurts everyone around him, as just being true to who he’s meant to be, but I’ll let that sit right now. The movie is being sold as a drama about the choices we make and shows a compelling performance from Cranston, which isn’t surprising.

Online and Social

The only web presence for the movie is a single page on the IFC Films website. That just has the trailer, a synopsis and cast list and that’s about it.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nope, nothing here.

Media and Publicity

The movie had a successful debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, where Swicord talked about the story, how she was able to get Cranston and the overall process of developing and making the film. It also showed at Telluride. The activity and buzz there was just about the extent of the publicity and press activity with the exception of commentary about the trailer.

Overall

There’s some good stuff here, particularly that poster that appears to have come from someone who knows how to stage a photo, or at least with some above-average design skills. That image, instead of just being a big floating head, actually conveys some interesting and important story elements. The trailer isn’t quite as good but does still get the major story points across in an effective way.

It’s not specifically marketing related, but the premise of the movie is still bothering me. What we’re being sold here is a story of a man who capriciously abandons his family. That’s terrible and it’s only because the family is well off and everyone is white that this is presented as “nervous breakdown” and not “extraordinarily irresponsible.” Transpose this movie to the south side of Chicago and the story doesn’t involve news broadcasts and tip lines, it’s the third talking point from the bottom in a speech by a Conservative politician explaining why social services in the neighborhood are being cut. Again, that’s not on the marketing, but it’s a block I just can’t help but stumble over.

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