Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Movie with Abe: Ammonite

Directed by Francis Lee
Released November 13, 2020 (Theaters)

There are many circumstances and factors that affect the possibility of finding true love. Timing can be everything, and, throughout history, there were undoubtedly numerous people who might have been able to be together had society been more open and accepting about what constitutes a normal relationship. The most passionate unions often come about in prohibitive situations, all the more appealing because they are not condoned and undeniably real because of the feelings present.

In the 1840s, Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) is a fossil hunter living on the coast of England with her mother Molly (Gemma Jones). The limitations put on her gender have not allowed her much success despite past acclaim and talent, leading to her working mostly to salvage souvenirs for tourists on the beach. An admirer, Roderick Murchison (James McArdle), arrives, eager to commission her time and talent, and also to have her look after his wife, Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan), who has little desire to be around anyone after suffering a miscarriage. The two women find nothing in common at first but gradually develop a bond far stronger than either of them ever expected.

This is a quiet film that features few supporting characters, honing in instead on the loneliness that both Mary and Charlotte feel. Their experiences and backgrounds are remarkably different, and neither is doing what they would like to be, forced into roles they would not have chosen because of how they are treated and seen by men. When they spend time together, they are able to see each other through their own eyes and without the influence of others, an angle that sparks passion and romance. Who they were before and how they relate to the world becomes unimportant as they find something they didn’t necessarily know they were seeking in each other.

It’s difficult not to compare this film to “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” which also features a lesbian relationship by the sea in a similar era. Both are effective character studies that bring audiences in to a dynamic that feels genuine and emotional. Francis Lee, best known for “God’s Own Country,” writes and directs a sensitive and compelling film anchored by a beautiful score by Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O'Halloran. What makes this film most are the strong performances from Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, who complement each other wonderfully on screen, channeling deep emotion in what often feels like an extended visit to a frozen moment in time.


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