Ammonite (Review), starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan!

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: Taking place in 1840's England, Ammonite explores the romance between famed fossil hunter Mary Anning and her younger lover, Charlotte Murchison.

REVIEW: Filmmaker Francis Lee (GOD'S OWN COUNTRY) is a gifted storyteller. His latest, AMMONITE is a biography revolving around acclaimed fossil hunter Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) and her romantic relationship with a young woman by the name of Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan). Taking place in the 1840s', this lush and passionate fable explores the love affair honestly, without shying away from the provocative sexual relations between the two. Lee, who also wrote the script, brings elegance and heart to this thoughtful feature. Even still, there is a coldness to this story, one that perhaps represents Mary Anning's fear of connection and expressing her desire and adoration. Let's look deeper into ANNONITE and see what's hidden inside.

When Mary Anning was a child, she made a brilliant discovery while fossil hunting which brought her early fame. However, she's forever tried to live up to that finding, and she has very little else when it comes to a human connection. Now living with her ailing mother (Gemma Jones), Mary lives in solitude until a young couple arrives in hopes to learn from her. Roderick Murchison (James McArdle) and his wife Charlotte (Ronan) help bring a change to the Anning household. It is one that complicates their lives more than they could ever have imagined. After Roderick convinces Mary to take care of his wife temporarily while he has to return for his business, the two women begin to fall for each other. The question is, will the two find a place in the world for their newfound relationship, or will Charlotte ultimately return to her husband and leave Mary behind?

Ammonite, biography, Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Francis Lee

What is most surprising about AMMONITE is how intensely the love story plays out between Anna and Charlotte. As the two become closer, the romantic biographical feature never shies away from the intensely physical sequences between them. Winslet and Ronan are exceptional together. The two actors brilliantly inhabit the two women and are unafraid of the sexual connection between them. Kate's Mary is cold and distrusting of those that she comes into contact with, aside from a kind friend played by Fiona Shaw. As for Saorise, it's impossible to think of a better person for the role. She excels at finding the innocence and sensitive nature of Charlotte. While it does take a bit for the fire between them to spark, once it happens, it becomes an undeniable force. Two lesser actors may not have been able to balance this raw energy nearly as well.

As stated, Francis Lee's exploration of a secret affair between two very different women doesn't instantly ignite. The beginning may feel stretched out for some viewers. Opening with Mary on the beach looking for a new find, the film features very little in the way of dialogue. The score by Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O'Halloran is minimal, so much so that I found myself listening to the lack of a score during several moments. As well, it takes a bit of time before both Charlotte and Roderick arrive. Thankfully, Lee brings a sense of urgency once Winslet and Ronan light up the screen. It's nearly instantaneous as the two find a common bond while spending their time together. And as mentioned, the sex scenes are perhaps more explicit than you might imagine considering the caliber of the film's stars.

Ammonite, Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, biography, drama, romance, Francis Lee,

Even if the first act lacks a bit of heat, the film is visually impressive. Lee, along with cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine creates an engaging and romantic story that is, at times, quite beautiful. However, it doesn't feel as emotionally impactful as it could have. With it's deliberately paced opening, it takes time for the film to engage the viewer. And then there is the final act. Instead of a rich and emotional finale, it feels slightly rushed, especially considering the time taken to explore the relationship between Anna and Charlotte in the middle section. It does work, but it lessens the emotional intensity, especially with the raw physicality that came before.

AMMONITE is a love story that impressively explores the intimate relationship between two women. Both Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan both give exceptional performances, and the chemistry between them is undeniable. As well, Lee is a talented filmmaker, and his choice to take on unique tales like a fossil hunter and her secret lover is especially impressive when sexuality is rarely allowed to be this open and honest. You have to admire the fearlessness of Winslet and Ronan, who embrace the romantic tale beautifully. While not a perfect and sweeping romance, there is much to admire with Lee's fine direction and the impressive cast. As a film biography, it does well enough to explore the subject matter with class and beauty.  If you're a fan of either Ms. Winslet or Ms. Ronan, it's highly unlikely that you won't find something to admire in Francis Lee's AMMONITE.

AMMONITE opens this Friday in select theatres and streaming.

Ammonite (Review), starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan!




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