LFF 2020 Review: Ammonite

Saoirse Ronan is an actress many people will watch absolutely anything she puts her efforts into and with good reason and the promise of her teaming up with Kate Winslet and God’s Own Country’s Francis Lee is something which is frankly too much to resist so its such a shame that while Ammonite has things to recommend about it, the overall feel is of a film which just should have been better.

Lee’s contemplative, slow style works well to conjure an atmosphere at the start of proceedings, the cold, almost desolate feel of Lyme is vividly captured with some excellent sound design ensuring waves roar and crash and wind howls to capture the mindsets of Ronan and Winslet’s quiet, depressed natures. This mood however lapses into a glacial pacing where the point is made so often that a sense of boredom starts to creep in, the film seemingly being powered purely on the “will they/won’t they” relationship between the central pair rather than delving into the true life story behind the two who became renowned in the Geology field, something this film does little to comment on and is the poorer for it.

Further making matters worse then is that despite the individual performances being good, very much so particularly from Winslet who has an awful lot on her shoulders with very little dialogue to work with but does some incredibly subtle work indicating her changing outlook, the chemistry between the two never hits home in the way its obviously intended. The age difference between the two isn’t mentioned and wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the feeling that Ronan’s Charlotte is more infatuated than falling in love whereas it’s so hard to get a read from Winslet’s Mary that by the end, the final image screams for you to be emotional and it feels just impossible to buy into it given the failing in the storytelling to make you believe what it’s trying to sell. 

Comparisons to Celine Sciama’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire probably aren’t welcome and obviously neither film stole from the other but it is fair to say that this film pales in comparison to that. Ammonite is a film which aches for you to feel something but with its slow pace and misplaced chemistry, it instead makes you feel very little. Really quite the disappointment and I hope Lee is able to find more of a spark next time round.