Amy and Peter Edgar (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth) are a well-meaning and respectable suburban couple who, years ago, adopted the boy they named Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) from the troubled country of Eritrea in the new movie Luce. They’ve raised him to be a good person and, as he’s gotten older, he’s become an independent thinker who wants to raise awareness of important issues.
One day the bright future Luce seems to have as he prepares for the end of high school and the transition to college is threatened when one of his teachers, Mrs. Wilson (Octavia Spencer), raises some concerns about a paper he’s written, one in which he argues that violence on a national level is good for population control. She’s worried that kind of thinking is dangerous and that he’s taking advantage of his situation, while Luce and his parents are worried she is targeting him because of his position. A conflict ensues that brings a variety of issues out into the open.
All four main players are shown on the one-sheet, their pictures cascading across the bottom half of the real estate with a concerned and anxious look on their faces. It’s a simple design meant to provide a blank white canvas for the emotions and issues raised by the story, which is hinted at in the copy “The truth has many faces.”
Luce is giving an inspiring speech about his family as the first trailer opens. He’s the model student and athlete, a young man who was adopted from another country by a couple that thinks the best of him. That image is threatened when a paper he writes is flagged by a teacher as being troubling. She becomes the enemy of Luce and Amy, who don’t want his future risked. The conflict escalates from the philosophical to the physical, with the teacher finding herself harassed and burglarized as Luce’s reputation becomes more and more precarious.
Online and Social
NEON’s official website for the movie doesn’t feature a lot of information beyond the marketing materials, but the design of the front page is well done in how it uses the poster key art to create some brand consistency. I also continue to appreciate how the studio provides a Box folder of photos and other media that can easily be downloaded right there instead of putting it behind some sort of press-restricted wall.
Advertising and Publicity
A first look still from the movie was released at the same time it was announced it would be screening at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where it garnered a good amount of positive word of mouth and buzz. NEON picked up distribution rights while the festival was still happening. It later screened at the Tribeca Film Festival.
The movie was among those announced by AMC Theaters as part of the first curated under its Artisan Films program to highlight smaller films.
The conflict between Luce and his teacher is the focus of the first TV spot released in mid-July, which uses fast cuts and high drama to convey the story of the film.
An exclusive clip was provided to The Playlist showing a key moment of debate between Luce and his teacher. Another clip showed Mrs. Wilson confronting Luce’s adopted mother with her concerns.
Media and Press
The cast and crew were on hand at Sundance to talk about the themes of the movie and its story.
Spencer appeared on “Kimmel” earlier this week to talk about the movie while Watts showed up on “The Tonight Show.” Those two were also interviewed about the dramatic twists of the movie’s story and what audiences could expect.
This is exactly the kind of emotional drama that seems so important these days. The story, as it’s presented in the campaign is one that touches on themes of privilege, trauma and social responsibility, all topics that are in conversation in the news on a daily basis.
The marketing itself is good, all aimed at delivering the maximum emotional punch through short bits of the story being shared in a way to create cliffhanger moments to get the audience intrigued and feeling tense. Spencer and Watts being the focus of those clips and the press efforts show where the real standoff in the story going to be, making the movie seem all the more interesting.
Picking Up the Spare
A series of short spots focusing on the mother, father and son in the story came out shortly after the movie hit theaters. So too a clip of the prep for a key debate moment in the story.
Director Julius Onah and playwright J.C. Lee – whose work the movie is adapted from – speak here about the characters and themes of the story.
Spencer and Watts were jointly interviewed about the movie while Watts revealed it was Spencer’s involvement that got her to join the project.