Blog Directory CineVerse: Fossils of furtive love

Fossils of furtive love

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

You’re putting extreme faith in your actors when you rely on them to carry a film that lacks plot, dialogue, characters, or closure. Fortunately, director Francis Lee’s Ammonite is acquitted nicely by the performances of Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, whose characters spark an unexpected romantic relationship that forms the crux of this picture. We gave the CineVerse treatment to Ammonite last week; here’s a recap of our examination, below (to listen to a recording of our group discussion, click here).

Describe what you found as unanticipated, remarkable, noteworthy, or distinctive about Ammonite

  • There is very little talking or exposition. This is arguably the quietest role Kate Winslet has ever played, and we rely significantly on nonverbal cues and facial expressions to better understand her.
  • The sex scenes are more graphic, explicit, extended, and forthright than many viewers would likely expect. These aren’t body doubles – that’s really Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan acting intimately in nude sequences that are debatably a step beyond Hollywood softcore. The actors demonstrate extreme trust, honesty, and daring in exposing themselves to this degree, and the results are hard to deny: We believe that Mary and Charlotte are genuinely passionate, aroused, and engaged.
  • The colors are primarily muted and drab, implying that Mary lives in a time and place where she cannot fully experience joy or express herself; however, the hues become more vibrant and energetic when Mary and Charlotte are romantically engaged.
  • Director/writer Francis Lee, a gay man, takes serious dramatic license with this material. The story is loosely based on the life of British paleontologist Mary Anning, but there are no records of her being a lesbian or being romantically involved with the real-life figure Charlotte Murchison, who was a British geologist. Consequently, the film proved controversial upon release and was criticized for taking liberties with a historical figure.

Major themes

  • Forbidden love and sexual awakening in a time of societal-imposed repression.
  • Feeling trapped and boxed in by society. The filmmakers use symbolism – such as a shot of an insect trapped in a jar – to suggest how Mary lacks the success, status, and recognition she deserves, while Charlotte lacks the autonomy and agency she deserves.
  • The patriarchal subjugation of women. Mary isn’t given proper credit in her time for her paleontological discoveries because she is a woman, and Charlotte is under the thumb of her domineering husband.
  • Tender care, patience, and trust are required to bring out the true beauty in someone. Just as Mary has to painstakingly prep each fossil she finds to reveal its hidden secrets, the two women must tenderly nurture their sensitive sides to uncover intimacy and affection.

Similar works

  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  • Blue is the Warmest Color
  • God’s Own Country
  • Dig
  • Vita & Virginia
  • Summerland
  • The World To Come
  • Tell It To The Bees

Other films by Francis Lee

  • God’s Own Country
  • The Last Smallholder

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