Ammonite, a romantic drama set in Lyme Regis and starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan during the 1840s sounds a bit bleak doesn’t it? Well it is. But deliberately so.
In 1840s England, palaeontologist Mary Anning and a young woman sent by her husband to convalesce by the sea develop an intense relationship. Despite the chasm between their social spheres and personalities, Mary and Charlotte discover they can each offer what the other has been searching for: the realisation that they are not alone. It is the beginning of a passionate and all-consuming love affair that will defy all social bounds and alter the course of both lives irrevocably.
There’s a scene early on in the film where Kate Winslet’s Mary Anning is on the beach in dour weather searching for the Ammonite fossils. She starts to scale a bank of sand to dig out one of her precious stones. However she slides down covered in the wet sand with nothing to show for her efforts. This unfortunately becomes an allegory for the entire film.
Ammonite on paper should absolutely be right on target, two amazing actresses, a bold study on loneliness and infatuation. More than one or two eyebrow raising scenes and some bleakly beautiful cinematography. However Francis Lee forgets one thing and that is to create any kind of chemistry to proceedings. There’s plenty of geology on hand, just nothing to feel towards the two leading characters who do more than what they can with the material presented.
Ammonite’s other issue, is that it is just plain dull. The film plods along wallowing in it’s own dreary backdrop, teasing that it might be about to consume you, but it simply doesn’t really go anywhere, the story is fairly linear and never tries to raise it’s head above the waves.
When the film focuses on the lonely world that Saoirse Ronan’s Charlotte, the film is at it’s most poetic. The love story which by the centre of the film is front and centre derails whatever momentum the film was building. Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet are known for playing complicated female roles, but here they just bubble down to the inevitable doomed lovers with little panache and all but zero connection.
Ammonite ultimately is a missed opportunity, and like the search for the sacred fossils, there’s far too much hunting for the perfect stone and when you find it, chipping away forever until you can find what you are looking for which for the most part as Kate Winslets Mary explains usually ends up being more miss than hit.
Ammonite is headed to Digital, DVD & Blu Ray on the 11th (Digital) & 14th June (DVD & Blu Ray) respectively.