Released: 14th January
Seen: 20th January
You know, normally when I write one of these things, I like to think my feelings match the quality of a film. I like good films, I don’t like bad films and I can usually explain what they did wrong that I didn’t like. Even films that I’m in the middle about, the 2.5-star films that have no effect on me are ones I can express why it’s in the middle. Ammonite is different though, a first for me on this blog because it’s a film that I can look at and admit that it’s well made and well acted with an interesting story and a lot of elements that I have actively begged for in movies… but I just didn’t like it one bit.
It’s the 1840s and Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) is a self-taught paleontologist living in a small home with her sick mother and makes a living selling fossils to tourists. One day, Roderick Murchison (James McArdle) comes to her store and, after spending some time with her, asks her to care for his wife Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan). Needing the money that would come with this job, Mary accepts and after some fighting, because the two of them are from very different worlds, the inevitable happens and Mary and Charlotte have a wild passionate fling that will take up the rest of the film.
To repeat myself, Ammonite is a well-made film. The performances by Kate and Saoirse are great, Kate is barely recognisable in the lead role and delivers a performance that can best be described as “Completely committed”. These two are completely believable and the scenes where they’re sneaking an intimate moment have some of the most palpable chemistry. You could almost see the two of them taking this exact chemistry and putting it into other films, a modern-day rom-com with Kate and Saoirse would be amazing and someone should green light that now.
There are some gorgeous visuals, the setting is almost designed to create landscape porn with every single shot. Scenes on the beach are absolutely gorgeous (though admittedly that could be because I haven’t actually seen a beach in person for almost a year now and seeing one on film felt exciting) and there’s a real lived-in quality to the homes that our main characters live in. On a technical level, this is a good film that maybe someone else will leap in and love, but I’m just not one of them.
My problem is that Ammonite feels like it’s taking an eternity. 2 hours isn’t that long in most modern films, I’ve regularly sat through films of that length and it barely phases me but this one just felt like a drag. It’s slow enough that there were moments I thought I might just go to sleep, only to pick up suddenly with some enthusiastic cunnilingus before going back to sleepy town. You can tell that the pace is intentional, this is the work of someone who has a vision and made the exact film that he set out to create. It’s just such a hard sit, at least for me when I went to see it.
Maybe Ammonite requires multiple viewings, maybe a year of being stuck at home with nothing to do has made me unable to handle slow films, maybe this is a film you watch at home. This is one of the few times I genuinely wonder if it is just me not being in the right frame of mind to properly enjoy a film and maybe I’m the odd one out… but the more I think about it, the more I feel like this film is just not going to be for most audiences. Heck, even the kind of audience who hears the phrase “Period lesbian drama” and perks up might not even like it, because I am the kind of person who would’ve read that description and assumed that I would’ve loved it… but I didn’t.
Look, Ammonite is a good film in every technical sense that one might think of to describe a good film. If we were to play the game of objective value this would pass on all fronts but I guess that’s why films shouldn’t be viewed objectively but subjectively because no matter how much I tried to love this film and how much I have openly advocated for more LGBTQ content in cinema, this just did nothing for me. I genuinely hope it makes money and maybe I’ll like the next film that tries to copy it, but this was a bust for me.