Kate Winslet plays real-life palaeontologist and fossil collector Mary Anning in Francis Lee's period drama.
Ammonite received rave reviews at the end of last year during its film festival circuit, with Oscars buzz swirling around the two leads, but recently failed to score any Academy Award nominations. Why, you ask? You're about to find out.
Francis Lee‘s second feature stars Kate Winslet as Mary Anning, the real-life self-taught palaeontologist and fossil collector who lived in Lyme Regis in Dorset, England.
The story is set in the 1840s when her days of famous discoveries are over and she sells the fossils she collects in a shop.
Geologist Roderick Murchison (James McArdle), a big fan, visits the area with his wife Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan) and pays Mary to let him join her on her coastal explorations. When he is called away, he asks Mary to look after Charlotte, who is grieving from a personal tragedy, and romance blossoms between the two.
It's no surprise that the performances in Ammonite are amazing. Winslet and Ronan have multiple Oscar nominations (and a win for Winslet) to prove their talent so they certainly didn’t disappoint, while Killing Eve's Fiona Shaw also stands out as Mary’s ex Elizabeth Philpot.
Despite their strong performances, their attraction and passion for one another was not convincing outside of the headline-grabbing explicit sex scenes.
This meant that it was hard to believe or invest in their story or to feel remotely moved by it.
It's not completely their fault – the story and the writing is weak and doesn’t earn this romance or make it feel authentic.
Also, the film is very slow, felt longer than it was, is quite quiet as neither of them are particularly talkative, and very dim as it’s trying to look candlelit.
Lee's decision to make Anning a lesbian caused controversy among historians once the plot of Ammonite was announced as there is no proof she was.
Lee and Winslet have argued that there is no proof she wasn't and they didn't set out to make a biopic.
In that case, it would have made more sense to create a fictional character inspired by Anning than using Anning herself. Why take a remarkable historical figure and make her the subject of a fictional lesbian romance?
Learning about Anning and her work was interesting and it would have been nice to know more about her discoveries and contributions to science and palaeontology rather watch this imagined romance plot.
Ammonite doesn’t go into much detail about her work and totally glosses over the work of Murchison and Philpot.
Considering the success of Lee's first feature, the powerful and moving God’s Own Country, and the two leads involved, it would be easy to expect a lot from Ammonite, but sadly, the plodding romance doesn't work.
Available for premium rental at home on all digital platforms from Friday 26th March.
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