19th Century England on the chilly southwest coast of Lyme Regis is the setting for this unhurried, nuanced drama from Francis Lee.
Ammonite stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan in what is hyped for their character’s intimacy through a compassionate recognition striving for profundity. Winslet, in particular, reveals a fascination for the material which may be considered to be a mirror image of the writer/director’s acclaimed God’s Own Country.
This fictional story relates actual historical figures in subtly mundane and gritty fashion, (notably, Winslet’s paleontologist Mary Anning and Ronan’s Charlotte Murchison).
A turbulence is felt on rocky shores from skies and tides before a brightening calm eases the foreboding. A thoughtfulness unfolds that is hardly anachronistic from the dedicated Mary (noted for her fossil discoveries) struggling now to cater to tourists in running a shop for mum Molly (Germma Jones), whom she looks after in her alling condition, and when she’s not excavating at the coast.
Then, melancholic Charlotte is in tow with her archaeologist husband Roderick (James McArdie) at the store and things begin to change even as Mary is a fairly crotchety presence. An illness for the missus and a financial opportunity with an expedition forthcoming for Roderick leads him to London and more time for a pair of disparate class women to get to know one another.
The spark of the clandestine and unexpected works rather well as stoicism and jealousy are joined with tenderness and ebullience with sexism and the unspoken immersed in this milieu. An attraction is delicately played as keen observation can yield an important voice.