I have a love for physical film that’s likely rooted in how my childhood best friend, as well as his father, was a photographer. It was always interesting watching them work but I really got a taste for it when, in high school, both of us were on the yearbook staff and I spent a good amount of time hanging out in the darkroom of the office watching him develop pictures. It’s a lot more than just splashing a piece of film in some chemicals and he showed me the art that informs the science. That all has gone by the wayside as photography has transitioned to digital.
The new Netflix original film Kodachrome uses the sunset of the physical photo age as its setting and premise. Ed Harris plays Ben, a famous photographer who discovers a few rolls of film that have been hidden away. Unsure of what’s on them he and his home health assistant Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen) set out to travel to the last shop in the country that develops Kodachrome film. To help, they enlist the aid of Ben’s estranged son Matt (Jason Sudeikis), still nursing resentment toward his absentee father who he hasn’t spoken to in a decade. With Ben’s health failing, it’s one last chance for the two to connect.
The poster can’t resist a photography pun and so features “Over time, everything develops.” as its tagline. The image, which looks like a slightly beaten up and worn photo of sorts, shows all three leads leaning up against or sitting on the hood of the car they’re taking cross country. It’s simple, but one of the more interesting and effective one-sheets Netflix has created for their movies.
“Happiness is bullshit” Ben tells us as the trailer opens. We see him in the back of the car with Matt and Zoe up front. He has a whole philosophy about why artists are miserable, which is just as grumpy as you’d expect. We find out why the three are on this road trip – because Ben is dying and needs a batch of film he’s discovered developed at the last place that handles that work – but Matt isn’t going along freely. The two have a contentious relationship, to say the least, and are sussing out the current state of affairs as they go, reliving shared memories and getting to know each other after a decade of being apart.
It’s not hard to see how the narrative of the story will play out based on what’s shown here. The main draw is Harris as a gruff old bastard who’s too old to change but still alive to regret how things played out. His interactions with Sudeikis are the highlight here, while it’s too bad that Olsen has been put in the “nurse/love interest” role while she’s capable of so much more than that.
Online and Social
Netflix gave the film limited support on its brand social channels but that’s about it.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing I’m aware of.
Media and Publicity
Closer to release, Sudeikis and Harris did a few press interviews, the former showing up on “Ellen” and a few other shows to talk about working with physical film, the story and more.
The dynamic between Harris and Sudeikis is really the main value proposition displayed here. Sudeikis brings that same attitude of being a spring constantly on the verge of uncoiling he’s had in other films to add a spark to what otherwise seems like a story we’ve seen before about the burdens of carrying around the scars left by uninterested and absent fathers. Matching that is Harris, who offers his same effortless attitude to the interplay. The interplay between those two makes the underuse of Olsen all the more notable in a campaign that offers a kind of hangdog energy and charm to the audience.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.