Set in 1840’s England an acclaimed but underappreciated fossil hunter Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) is tasked by a fellow fossil hunter/collector Roderick Murchison (James McArdle) to go fossil hunting with him in the hopes of learning from her. Rodericks wife, Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan) had recently lost a child by a miscarriage and is very dissonant, depressed, and as her husband continues to point out in an unhelpful way, “not herself”. Roderick decides to leave her in the care of Mary in the hopes that Charlotte can learn from Mary and perhaps regain some of herself back in the process, but Mary insists she does not want to “babysit” Charlotte, but ultimately agrees. This story of loss, love, and coping with the unbearable, and brings a nuanced and heartfelt love story that I think deserves a lot of praise.
Director Francis Lee does a great job in setting the time period we are in as well as engaging you in Mary’s profession of fossil hunting. We immediately see how much work Mary puts into finding, excavating, cleaning, and selling her fossils and Kate Winslet acts the role perfectly. Mary lives with her mother, so when Charlotte comes into her life it upends a lot of her routine and opens her up to being more accommodating and kind to others. I can only imagine in that time being a woman and a leader of a industry that does not give her the credit she deserves can make her cold and bitter to anyone showing interest and Kate Winslet again does a great job with her character.
Charlotte comes from wealth that Mary has never experienced before, and there are some humorous ‘fish out of water’ moments where Charlotte is clearly unaware or incapable of doing menial tasks that seem second nature to Mary. Mary becomes in many ways Charlottes foundation to recover on, and that is what develops their relationship.I loved character dynamics, Saoirse Ronan is tremendous as a more mature role than she has been in before but still is able to bring youth and naivety to her broken character. You root for their relationship but more than that, you root for both Mary and Charlotte to keep their individuality together. The story plays with that idea of once you become involved with someone do you keep your identity or not.
There are some slower points in the film I think could’ve been tightened up in it’s pacing, and a couple supporting characters are not entirely as fleshed out as I would’ve liked to have seen, but overall Ammonite is a very beautiful movie that explores a lot of important themes that I think people should check out!