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Ammonite

November 12, 2021

Ammonite (2020)
Director: Francis Lee
Actors: Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Jones

Ammonite': Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan on fact and fiction - Los Angeles  Times

Synopsis: Reserved and closed-off fossil hunter, Mary Anning (Kate Winslet), in 1840s Lyme Regis, finds her world slowly turned upside-down when she is tasked with caring for a middle-class woman, Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan), who has been left to convalesce by the sea.

Review: Francis Lee brings his fiercely naturalistic and sensitive aesthetic to bear on this tale of a bittersweet merging of two lonely souls from across the social divide in 1840s Lyme Regis.

It’s a similar narrative concept to his exceptional debut, God’s Own Country, (both films feature unlikely, same-sex affairs emerging in elemental, provincial settings), and, as with that film, Ammonite is very much a swirl of atmosphere, subtext and repressed emotions. Being able this time to call on a starrier cast, Lee isn’t let down by Saoirse Ronan, and, especially, Kate Winslet, in the lead role of renowned, reclusive palaentologist, Mary Anning. There’s no conceit here of a lustrous actor transforming themselves into an unglamorous and plain individual, Winslet plays the part absolutely straight, like one of the fossils she has just excavated: hard and drab on the exterior, but with hidden depths and treasures underneath (incidentally, Lee does continually play with these conceptual metaphors throughout the film).

As with God’s Own Country, it’s a sensorial tour de force by Lee. The picturesque landscape of the ‘Pearl of Dorset’, Lyme Regis, is utilised for both its quintessential muted British seaside palette, but, just as the oppression lifts from Winslet and Ronan’s characters early gloom, so the canvas around them changes. And, just as the fossils play as an extended metaphor throughout the film, so does the sea. Where Ronan’s character self-sabotagingly throws herself into the hostile-looking waves at her lowest ebb post-abandonment by her husband, after her rejuvenation thanks to the care and love of Anning, they both share a bathe in calmer waters later on – the swim like a baptism to signify their regeneration. (November 2021)

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