Kate Winslet

Review of LGBT-themed period drama with Kate Winslet, ‘Ammonite’

July 13, 2021 Mario Bautista 606 views

‘AMMONITE’ is a sapphic romance set in Lyme, England in the 1840s. The lead character is Mary Anning, a celebrated real-life British paleontologist played by Kate Winslet. The film is a fabricated romance between her and a married woman, Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan). There’s no confirmed report that Mary is a lesbian, so this is totally fictitious.

Mary collects stones and fossils on the beach which she sells in her small shop to help support her and her mother, Molly (Gemma Jones), who lives with her. The most common stones she finds are ammonites, stones from the remains of marine mollusks that are now extinct. Mary is already contented with her humdrum but peaceful life.

Then one day, Roderick Murchison (James Macardle, the deacon in “Mare of Easttown”), a geologist, visits her and tells her how much he admires her work. He offers to pay her if she’d teach him how to collect fossils on the beach. The man is with his wife, Charlotte, who is in a state of depression after losing their child in a miscarriage.

He then asks Mary’s help to look after Charlotte as he is leaving for Europe and will be gone for, at the most, six weeks. Mary agrees and, at the start, she and Charlotte are distant to each other. But when Charlotte gets sick, the doctor tells her to rest, with Mary acting as her nurse.

Charlotte regains her health and becomes more friendly with Mary in their morning visits to the shore. Soon, they are sharing the same bed and having scorching sex. But then, a letter arrives ordering Charlotte to go back to London. Charlotte was in tears on the day she leaves Mary to depart for London.

Mary’s mom dies and she becomes very lonely. She perks up when she gets a letter from Charlotte asking her to visit her in her home in London. She does so and Charlotte is rejoicing upon seeing her, takes Mary upstairs to show her a bedroom that Charlotte says will be hers for good, so they will no longer be far away from each other anymore.

Mary does not react favorably to this and the film ends on a cliffhanger with viewers not sure whether they will continue or end their relationship. Honestly, though, we viewers couldn’t care less. This is because the treatment of the relationship between the lesbian lovers is very superficial.

It lacks the emotional depth that is central in any kind of relationship. But you have to give it to Director Francis Lee as the sex scene between them is very graphic, unlike in “The World to Come” where there is only much kissing. Here both Kate and Saoirse really get to bare themselves in a bedscene where they both go up and down each other, rivaling Cate Blanchette and Rooney Mara in “Carol” But it comes out as something so overly orchestrated and engineered that it fails to register as something truly erotic and naturally intimate.

This is quite a pity since both lead actresses have proven their talent in various films before. Kate has won the Oscar and the Emmy while Saoirse has been nominated several times. Here, their performances are hampered by underwritten roles and Fiona Shaw (Sandra Oh’s boss in “Killing Eve”) even steals a scene from Kate as her former lover, Elizabeth, who conveys her heartaches after Kate ended their relationship when Kate’s dad died.

The film actually fails to enlighten the viewer on how a forbidden gay relationship between two repressed women at their place and time could survive, what with the differences in their social standing. And we never really fully understand Kate’s behavior.

Is she truly happy with her life, specially after her own mom died and she lives miserably alone? She leads a very drab life and nothing occupies her but her grey stones and where everything is gloomy: gloomy skies, gloomy weather, gloomy house, gloomy clothes, all bereft of life and excitement.

Saoirse is offering her a human connection but she seems to have misread Kate’s feeling of intimacy for her. Kate is actually an uninteresting character who seems to suffer from a dearth of passion and the ending is a cliffhanger so ambiguous you have to draw your own conclusions. But who cares?

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