WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE?: Greenwich Picturehouse
WHEN?: Saturday 22 May (matinee)
RUNTIME: 120 minutes
Writer/director Francis Lee’s last film was the monsta-winning God’s Own Country and although the subject matter here is a world apart the themes of same sex love and the differences between the classes are still very much present and correct
- Read on for reasons including how this features members of the monsta-winning God’s Own Country cast
You join us in Lyme Regis, Dorset, in the 1840s where fossil collector and paleontologist Mary Anning lives with her mother and skulks along the shoreline in search of natural objects for her shop.
The story is based on real-life characters and things change when patronising geologist Roderick Murchison (James McCardle, Angels In America, National Theatre) arrives in Anning’s shop and leaves depressed wife Charlotte in Dorset to enjoy outdoor walks with Anning.
Like God’s Own Country, Ammonite has early expansive wordless moments when we’re drawn into the rugged beauty of the landscape (part of the draw of the film for us was our own early childhood memories of trips to Lyme Regis) and the solitude of our protagonists.
Winslet makes for a magnificently sulky heroine, using shells from the beach to make pretty gifts for tourists while being a woman in a male-dominated academic world has left her without the acclaim she deserves.
Saoirse Ronan is the subservient wife who finds more than she expected in the company of Anning. She’s been nominated for 6 Oscars without winning and we’ve particularly enjoyed her in Brooklyn, Lady Bird, Little Women and Mary Queen Of Scots.
She often brings a studious luminescence to her predominantly period roles and so it is here although we weren’t expecting the animalistic desire of God’s Own Country to feature again quite so strikingly. She makes her stage debut in The Tragedy Of Macbeth at north London’s Almeida Theatre later this year.
Elsewhere there are 2 familiar faces from God’s Own Country, Alec Secareanu plays a doctor who has feelings for Anning and Gemma Craven, as our heroine’s sickly mother, has little to do but give us surly and yet does so memorably.
Fiona Shaw (TV’s Killing Eve, Enola Holmes, and Bull In A China Shop, National) brings a fierce intelligence to everything she does and so it proves here in an intriguing role as Anning’s former flame whose failed relationship hints at problems to come.
Lee remains an interesting writer/director and it will be fascinating to see if he continues ploughing the furrows that are familiar from his most beloved work or moves on elsewhere next.