Sometimes all you need in a movie for it to be good is a great performance. In Francis E Lee’s ‘Ammonite,’ you get to: Kate Winslet’s and Saoirse Ronan’s. Without them, I really don’t know how the film would have held up. But with them in it, they make the whole thing soar.
Franci E Lee’s second feature has similarities to his first: there’s the love that dare not speak its name, there’s that love in an idyllic setting. ‘Ammonite’ is a lot of atmosphere as it is set in 1840s Lyme Regis in Southern England. And Lee knows how to do atmosphere well. In here, it really enhances – defines – Winslet’s character, Mary Anning, a paleontologist who spends her days looking for rocks, and fossilizing what she finds. When she meets Charlotte (Ronan) her life changes.
There isn’t much narrative, to be honest. But both actresses make up for it. They start off cold, but bring enough passion in their performances that ultimately you believe in their love. You may not necessarily be swept away by it, though – this film is subtle with sentimentality – but there isn’t a doubt in your head by its existence. Winslet is truly fantastic here, a woman who never wallows in her existence. On the other hand, Ronan as Charlotte rises from the wallowing, and that’s when you can see the fires in their. love.