Ammonite is a historical romance drama written and directed by Francis Lee. Ammonite stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan in the lead romantic roles. The movie concerns itself with real-life 19th century British palaeontologist Mary Anning (Winslet) and a fictionalised romantic relationship between Anning and Charlotte Murchison (Ronan).
Plot-wise, Ammonite is straight-forward with no twists and turns.
“1840s England, acclaimed but overlooked fossil hunter Mary Anning and a young woman sent to convalesce by the sea develop an intense relationship, altering both of their lives forever.” (From imdb.com)
The entire movie is set mainly in Lyme Regis – the Pearl of Dorset – which lies on Lyme Bay on the English Channel coast at the Dorset–Devon border. There, Anning is living out her days with her elderly mother, spent mostly on the beach hunting for fossils. The reclusive Anning reluctantly agrees to take care of Mrs Murchison at the behest of her husband and despite herself, falls in love with the young woman.
That’s basically it, really. Much of the movie’s success hinges on the chemistry between the two leads and there’s plenty of that for sure. Of course, there is no factual evidence that Anning was a lesbian, but then again, there’s no evidence to the contrary. Call it artistic license on the part of writer-director Francis Lee.
This creative decision is even more significant considering the setting of the story – Victorian England with its strict moral code and lack of female empowerment. In this context, Ammonite fits into the social messaging of 2020 – a Victorian romance between two women is all the more refreshing to witness.
The third act also avoids predictable cliché. Ammonite harshly reminds us that it is not 2020 but the 1880s that this lesbian relationship is existing in and thus things are not as cut and dried as they are now. To its credit, the movie ends ambiguously, which is an honest statement of where the story goes, nobody know, not even the writer.
I loved Ammonite’s simplicity and candor, the candid performances of the leads and the austere mood captured. Something different for sure but eminently enlightening. Highly recommended.
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