Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan are both winning as two lovers with different moods.
“Ammonite” is the second period drama I’ve seen this year to have a Lesbian love story taking place by the sea, and having these women to represent their own personalities. The first was “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” which was a French film about a painter assigned to paint an aristocrat, and ends up falling in love with her. In “Ammonite’s” case, the story takes place in the coastline of Lyme Regis with the self-taught paleontologist Mary Anning (1799-1844) meeting the geologist Charlotte Murchison (1788-1869).
The movie stars Kate Winslet as Mary and Saoirse Ronan as Charlotte, and even if the movie takes Mary look older than Charlotte, you’re still utterly amazed at how committed they are to their real-life characters, and how they represent women with different attitudes. In this case, Mary is the disgruntled type, while Charlotte is the somber one. Writer/director Francis Lee, in her first feature since “God’s Own Country,” guides these two actresses very well, and she also is passionate about their lives and the romance they form.
As the film begins, we see Mary working in a little shop with her ailing mother (Gemma Jones), and finding rare fossils to sell for big money. Out of the blue, and when the store is closed, she is visited by an eager geologist named Roderick Murchison (James McArdle), who asks to join her in her expeditions.
His wife Charlotte suffers from melancholia, and begins to feel lonely and depressed. So, he asks Mary to take her out on her expeditions. At first, she isn’t very fond of the young lady’s presence, but after taking care of the feverish Charlotte, who recovers, Mary grows to like her. Much more than that. They begin to collaborate on the fossil experiments, and their personal interests.
Some moments in the movie aren’t clear, like Roderick’s letter to Charlotte, which is written in cursive. I know that’s a form a writing, but my cursive is a little rusty. It’s not the movie; it’s me. Other than that, “Ammonite” ignites with the connection between the leads, who come from different worlds and have different emotions, and yet, manage to see the magic in one another. Winslet and Ronan both deliver on their characters with their personalities, and you get charming supporting work from Jones, McArdle, and Fiona shaw as Mary’s neighbor.
The movie is also beautifully photographed by cinematographer Stephane Fontaine, who shows us the beaches, rocks, fossils, and homes with a gloomy tone. I love how Mary digs in the mud for a big rock, and slips and slides down, how Charlotte rides a cart down to the beach, where she must take a dip in the cold water, as part of her treatment.
Take “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” and “Ammonite,” and you’re able to see the passion inside these lesbian dramas. They may have sex, but they’re not concerned about them. They’re concerned about the women and their environments; and they’re beautiful in their representations. Francis Lee draws the movie with a certain integrity, and guides Winslet and Ronan on the right path.
Now Playing in Select Theaters
Coming to On Demand December 4