Connect with us
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.

Film

‘Ammonite’ is a Quiet and Touching Portrayal of Paleontologist Mary Anning

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.

London Film Festival 2020

Director Francis Lee is not one for big, grand statements of love. In his first feature, God’s Own Country, he explored themes of immigration through a tender love story with exceptional results and takes a similar approach to the story of Mary Anning, a 19th Century British fossil collector and paleontologist. Whilst not an immediately obvious choice for a romantic protagonist, it proves to be another triumph for the director.

Not much is known about Anning’s love life, but it is noted that she had many female friendships. Although technically a fictionalized take on her life, it is entirely plausible she was a lesbian, a narrative that Lee takes on wholeheartedly. This version of events posits Anning (Kate Winslet) as a somewhat closed-off woman, hardened by living with a mother who cannot move past her own grief, and her failed previous relationship. Approached by a wealthy man from London to essentially babysit his wife, Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan), who is going through a period of depression herself. As the two spend more time together, feelings develop, leading to a freedom for both of the women trapped in a man’s world.

Most films focusing on a lesbian relationship go one of two ways: the couple in question are either punished for their sexuality or exploited through the eye of a straight male director; Lee, part of the LGBT+ community himself, opts for neither, instead simply developing the characters on their own terms. There is no dramatic revelation, no story contrivances in order to ensure a grand finale, simply a muted unfolding of a romance between two people.

As with God’s Own Country, which ran with matters of the immigrant experience, Ammonite also explores a subject relevant to its characters, that of the erasure of women from history, and specifically their achievements in what is perceived as a man’s sector. A touching moment sees Mary remove a fossil Charlotte has displayed in a cabinet, noticing that the former’s husband’s name as discoverer has been taped over and replaced, quite rightly, with Anning’s own. The thread of women supporting each other in a sexist world is softly and deftly touched upon, as are the difficulties these women have faced in the past; the grief each woman has experienced is only hinted at, and never explicitly delved into, refusing to pander to its audience.

It would be easy to dismiss this as another Oscar-bait release, with such high-caliber actors and historical context, but its performances are paired back and reserved – there is no artifice in either Winslet’s nor Ronan’s achievements, and both are deserving of a potential Oscar nomination, particularly Winslet, whose subtlety renders her almost unrecognizable.

Beautifully shot by cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine (whose previous works include Jackie and A Prophet), expertly acted and both delicately written and directed, Francis Lee cements himself as one of the best British directors working today, and a much-needed tonic for some of the more melodramatic outings cinema has to offer.

  • Roni Cooper

Shirley plays as part of the London Film Festival, running from 7 -18 October. Learn more via their website.

Written By

Roni Cooper is a twenty-something from the UK who spends her time watching any and every film put in front of her. Her favourites include 'Singin' in the Rain', 'Rear Window', 'Alien' and 'The Thing', and she will watch absolutely anything in which Jessica Chastain stars. When not in front of a screen, be it small or silver, she can be found taking care of her spoilt but adorable dog and refusing to make the move from physical to digital media.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Facebook

Trending

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches

Wrestling

The Last of Us Infected The Last of Us Infected

The Last of Us Looks for Love in a Hopeless Place with “Infected”

TV

Hear Me Out Hear Me Out

Hear Me Out Never Finds Its Own Voice

Film

Kaleidoscope Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope (2023): How the Newest Hypnotic Netflix Toy Stumbles with its Unique Format

TV

The Last of Us When You're Lost in the Darkness The Last of Us When You're Lost in the Darkness

The Last of Us Begins with the Bleak, Familiar “When You’re Lost in the Darkness”

TV

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time

Top 5 WWE Wrestlers To Win The 2023 Royal Rumble

Wrestling

Bill Nighy is a Living Marvel in This Kurosawa Remake

Culture

WWE Royal Rumble 1992 WWE Royal Rumble 1992

Why the 1992 WWE Royal Rumble Match is Still The Best

Culture

Sundance 2023: The Eight Must-See Films at the Festival

Culture

maxwell jacob friedman maxwell jacob friedman

MJF and Three Potential First-Time Feuds for 2023 

Culture

When It Melts movie review When It Melts movie review

When It Melts Continues an Important Conversation with Unflinching Pathos

Culture

Magazine Dreams Review Magazine Dreams Review

Magazine Dreams is a Volcanic Study of A Self-consuming Bodybuilder

Culture

Ranking The Chicago Bulls Dynasty Opponents In The ’90s

Culture

WWE sale - Vince McMahon WWE sale - Vince McMahon

The Available Options For A Potential Sale Of WWE

Culture

Fair Play movie review Fair Play movie review

Fair Play Interrogates the Cutthroat Dynamics of Business and Marriage

Culture

Monday Night RAW At 30: Ten Best RAW Matches To Watch from 1993

Culture

Connect