How NEON is selling a period story of forbidden but undeniable romance.
Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan star in writer/director Francis Lee’s latest film Ammonite. The movie takes its name from the fossil remains of extinct cephalopods, often found in marine rocks. Set in 1840s England, Mary Anning (Winslet) is a fossil hunter who makes her living selling what she finds along the coast to tourists. One day Roderick Murchison (James McArdle) approaches Anning about taking care of his wife Charlotte (Ronan) while he works. Initially reluctant, Mary and Charlotte eventually bond, with that bond becoming something more intense as time goes on.
NEON’s campaign for the movie, which has a decent 71% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, has focused on that romance as well as the movie’s period setting in general.
Released in August, the image on the poster (by marketing agency Legion Creative Group) establishes the coastal setting of the story by showing waves of water coming in at the bottom. The romance, then, is communicated in how the translucent photos of Mary and Charlotte’s faces overlap to become solid where they meet, indicating that only when they’re together do the two individuals become a whole person.
Mary is describing the work she did on a particular fossil as the trailer (667,000 views on YouTube), released in August, opens. One day Charlotte enters her shop, accompanied by her husband, who wants Mary to take his wife with her on her walks along the beach looking for specimens. After some reluctance a friendship begins and then something else, something that seems to help both women come alive in a way they weren’t. Of course there is tension as they ponder what such a relationship would mean, making this a story of love and longing.
Online and Social
The page for the movie on NEON’s website has the basic information about the film, including the trailer, poster and a synopsis. There are also Twitter and Instagram profiles which have equally promoted the U.S. and U.K. releases.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
NEON acquired distribution rights to the movie in January.
In August it was announced the film would close October’s BFI London Film Festival. It was also scheduled for the Telluride and Toronto film festivals, with Winslet receiving a Silver Medallion Award at the latter.
Those screenings resulted in somewhat mixed reviews and word of mouth, but praise for the performances of both Winslet and Ronan, whom were pegged as potential awards contenders. It was later added to the New York LGBTQ Film Festival as the opening night feature and then to the Hamptons Film Festival lineup.
Media and Publicity
Some of the first publicity about the movie wasn’t wholly positive, as the director had to defend the story against comments from Anning’s relatives that the lesbian relationship depicted was never confirmed to be real.
A feature profile of Winslet had her talking about returning to acting and the experience of shooting the film, including filming the same-sex romance with Ronan.
During TIFF directory Francis Lee was interviewed about how he assembled the cast and worked with them to make the script come to life. There was also an interview with Ronan about her career to date and how this movie fits into that. In another she talked about how she wanted to get the love story right.
Lee continued talking about how and why he made the love story work in the film. Another interview with Winslet had her talking about shooting the film with Ronan and once more commenting on how it seems to mark a turning point in her career.
On the one hand, there’s a lot about the campaign that seems like it pulls the same 12 elements from most other period romances, including the gentle surroundings, repressed emotions and such. In that way it becomes part of a particular genre, though that also means it kind of blends into the background.
On the other hand, the performances from Winslet and Ronan are shown to be the highlight here, with the story they’re part of a secondary value proposition. That’s why not only are they paired in the marketing elements like the poster and trailer, but have also frequently done joint interviews. Everything, then, works to reinforce the message of the two being a pair, which helps consistently sell the movie in the same way.