How Bleecker Street is selling a 19th century love story.
Based on the book of the same name by Jim Shepard, The World To Come stars Katherine Waterston as Abigail, who’s married to Dyer (Casey Affleck), the two of them carving out a hard living on a 19th century east coast farm. They are not exactly happily married, but the distance between them grows greater with the arrival of Finney (Christopher Abbott) and his wife Tallie (Vanessa Kirby). Specifically, the supportive friendship between Abigail and Tallie soon turns passionately romantic as they seek solace from their respective loveless marriages.
Directed by Mona Fastvold from a screenplay by Ron Hansen, Jim Shepard, the movie has a decent 72% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and has gotten a campaign emphasizing the hopeful but doomed romance between the two women.
Released in mid-January, the one poster (by marketing agency The Refinery) takes a common design – three vertical strips with a single photo in each one – and actually uses it to good effect. Dyer and Finney are at the top and bottom while Tallie and Abigail are placed in the middle, literally pushing their husbands away from them. The fire engulfing a house behind the two women hints at a tragic outcome to the story while the dark colors convey the relentless dreariness that makes up the lives of the characters.
Bleecker Street released the first trailer (1m views on YouTube) in mid-January. It starts out with a lot of sheep on Abigail and Dyer’s bleak farm. Abigail’s life is improved by the arrival of their new neighbor Tallie and her husband Finney, with the two women growing closer and closer over time, a romance born of the hardships each endures in their respective marriages. That change does not go unnoticed, and problems soon follow as the women seek to be happy with each other instead of miserable elsewhere.
Online and Social
The full-screen video on the movie’s official website uses bits from the trailer, but the content on the site is minimal. There are links to where the film will be available to download and rent along with the trailer, a synopsis and not much else.
Advertising and Promotions
The movie debuted at the 2020 Venice Film Festival, where it accumulated a number of positive reviews and good word of mouth. Bleecker Street acquired the film shortly after that premiere.
The movie was among those scheduled to screen at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
Media and Press
A profile of Kirby from early September included this as one of a couple highly-anticipated projects she was involved in. A few months later Waterston talked about crafting and filming an LGBTQ love story.
The performances by Waterston and Kirby are the standout elements of the campaign here, with the chemistry between the two driving the drama that’s on display. It’s good that they provide such heat, too, because the rest of the marketing is very grey and cold, which could turn off some of the audience who might feel it’s a bit too drab for their liking.
Between this and the recent Ammonite, though, we have a small trend building of forbidden lesbian romance period pieces. I’m not sure what that means, especially if there’s something about setting the story a century or more in the past that makes the story more dramatic. Whatever the case, Bleecker Street’s campaign highlights the positive reviews the movie has received so far while selling a story filled with tension and romance.