Ammonite review – Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan find love among the fossilsMarch 25, 2021
Francis Lee’s sensational biopic of palaeontology pioneer Mary Anning reimagines her erotic encounter with a woman trapped in a stifling marriage
The open secret of Victorian sexuality is rediscovered by film-maker Francis Lee in this fine, intimate, intelligently acted movie about forbidden love in 1840s Lyme Regis. But it isn’t exactly a tale of two French Lieutenant’s Women, despite the inevitably tense walk up the fabled Cobb, filmed in thoughtful longshot. The complicated power balance between the principals makes the comparison incorrect. Actually, the film that swam into my head afterwards was Jane Campion’s The Piano.
Ammonite is an absorbing drama that sensationally brings together two superlative performers: Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet. Combining these alpha players doubles or actually quadruples the screen voltage, and their passion co-exists with the cool, calm subtlety with which Lee inspects the domestic circumstances in which their paths crossed. It is a film about a real-life relationship speculatively reimagined with some artistic licence. But I have to say that – paradoxically – the figures of this bodiced and bonneted movie, despite being based on real life, seemed a tiny bit less real than the fictional figures of his previous film, God’s Own Country. Yet they’re just as passionate.