Ammonite review – chilly study of emotional labour

Two women, lonely and exhausted by the very nature of their existence, find each other for a fleeting moment in Francis Lee’s wise and cautious sophomore feature Ammonite. The film is billed as a romantic drama, loosely inspired by the life of British palaeontologist Mary Anning (brought to life here by Kate Winslet), but in practice it feels better sold as a study of alienation, bitterness, weariness, and miscommunication. This is not a love story – it’s a cautionary tale on the potential wreckage of emotional labour.

It would be easy to nod to Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire as a reference point, a lesbian period drama released last year which similarly embraced the seaside air as an opportune backdrop for forbidden romance to fizz and thrive. But Ammonite is trying something different, forging a new path to tell the story of the connection between these women. There is no sense of fated, instantaneous mutual attraction when Mary’s eyes meet those of Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan as miserable and erratic as she’s ever been) after her husband, geologist Roderick Murchison, asks Mary to take care of her while he goes away. Instead their curiosity and affection for one another builds slowly. But even then a kiss, a night of torrid intimacy, can’t promise that life afterwards will be forever shared between two lovers. Ammonite understands that devotion can be ephemeral, that love must so often fight to take up space in our lives.

Read the full review at We Love Cinema

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