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Arts and Culture

'Ammonite' Review With Casey

Ammonite is a quiet lesbian drama centered on real-life geologist and fossil hunter Mary Anning (Kate Winslet, Wonder Wheel, 2017) and her lonely world during 19th century England. This film was originally released in November last year, but who knows who actually saw it in November because it was likely in very few movie theaters in Utah and available on very few streaming platforms. But Ammonite has now been released on Hulu in early March for a wider audience to see. 

Writer/director Francis Lee (God's Own Country, 2017) crafted a beautiful original screenplay, and the story unfolds very gracefully through consistent pacing as Mary Anning's life abruptly changes when she stubbornly agrees to help look after a young woman visiting her town to revive herself on the seashore (Saoirse Ronan, Little Women, 2019).

 

The metaphors and themes of the film are a little heavy-handed in contrasting the two women against each other as their desires increase. Kate Winslet’s character is blunt, calloused, and unfeeling like the rocks she studies. Saorise Ronan’s character is fragile, dainty, and inexperienced like a tiny fly trying to find its way in the world (or trying to escape from a stifling marriage). 

 

While the film is good and has great performances from its two leading actresses, I couldn’t help feeling like this territory has been explored before. (Damn you, historical context! You ruin everything!) People who have seen the films Carol (2015), Disobedience (2017), and Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) will know what I’m talking about. This deja vu is similar to how I felt about another recently released film, Supernova, which I reviewed on UPR in February this year.

 

Ammonite is far from a terrible film, but it’s also not explosively new or original. Ammonite is a satisfying choice to watch during Women’s History Month (it's March), and it portrays achingly subtle sojourns of the human heart.

 

I remember seeing previews for this film last year in the fall and thinking, "That's a total Oscar-bait movie." And after watching the film, my thoughts were confirmed. But the most likely reason Ammonite hasn't been nominated for any mainstream awards this season (and is unlikely to be nominated for any Oscars) is what I explained before; its themes and subject matter are something viewers have seen before.