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‘Ammonite’ – Review

‘Ammonite’ – Review

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The total feeling of love is expressed in all of its passions in director Francis Lee’s intense historical love story Ammonite, which tells the true story of a love that was long thought forgotten and which is sure to enwrap its audience inside its fire.

1840s England, acclaimed but overlooked fossil hunter Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) and a young woman (Saoirse Ronan) sent to convalesce by the sea develop an intense relationship, altering both of their lives forever.

Brought to the screen wrapped in burning passion, director Francis Lee’s Ammonite is a gripping historical romantic drama that audiences won’t be able to look away from. Delivering two incredibly heavy performances from two of the best actresses working in Hollywood today, in the form of Academy Award-winning actress Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, as two women who find deep love in one another, but who have no way of reconciling it. Lee builds a feeling of hope amidst despair, of love battling through hardship and under his direction Ammonite is sure to touch the soul of his audience.

Taking on the lead role of Mary Anning is Academy Award winner Kate Winslet and her performance here is utterly transformative. Winslet disappears into the very shell of Anning, a disgruntled, lonely, bitter and impoverished woman who eecks out an existence finding and restoring fossils, whom she sells to local tourists, all the while being denied the scientific prestige that should be awarded to her. Winslet is almost devoid of emotion as Anning, until the appearance of Saoirse Ronan’s Charlotte Murchison lights a fire inside of her and she can’t help but express her love for her.

As Charlotte Murchison, Saoirse Ronan is also a shell of a woman, but her affliction is one of the soul and when we meet her she is possessed by a deep and bitter melancholy. Neither Mary nor Charlotte particularly warm to each other quickly but as the narrative unfolds we see a deep love form between them, and the danger that such a love can have for two women within this time period. Ronan’s performance is incredibly brave, and this is her most grown-up role to date. As her spirit rises her emotions come to the surface once again, and Charlotte is very much the sun to Mary, giving her the attention and devotion she has long been devoid of.

Ammonite is a very challenging piece of work for both actresses and their attention to the story and their characters is something to be commended. Lee’s film is one of burgeoning sexual energy and explosive intimacy, and we see both actresses fall into the throngs of passion. Both Winslet and Ronan each give themselves completely to their roles within this film, and while they find a fleeting moment of happiness together, each is an entirely different character, and this is where the tension and drama of this story unfolds.

Alongside the intensity of the performances of his actresses, Lee also focuses his attention in on the cold, wet, and overcast coastal region of Lyme Regis, where Mary Anning attempts to make a living as a fossil hunter. And this harsh, inhospitable landscape is a major contributor to the power of this narrative. Shot with particular focus by cinematography Stéphane Fontaine whose lighting is sombre and grey, and brings out a colour palette of cold aquas, navy’s and blues that tease out the cold intensity that surrounds Mary and Charlotte. But this backdrop serves only to push their passions for each other further together with the screen them coming along with warmer tones to symbolise the potency of their love. Watching Ammonite is like watching a piece of Victorian-era art canvas come to life, and the attention to detail that Lee and Fontaine bring to the film makes it grow on the audience even further.

Ammonite is a powerful film of what it means to love and the journeys we go through with the person that we love. With its mix of heavy drama and two stunning performances from it’s leading actresses, audiences can be sure that they’ll be in for a very special film experience where every part demands to be savored.

Image: Transmission Films