Friday, February 5, 2021

[Blu-ray Review] - Ammonite (2020)

A few days ago, I received a screener from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment for the drama AMMONITE (R; 117 minutes) starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. Directed and written by Francis Lee, the film premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival had to go the digital route. The movie debuted in United States theaters last November, and mainstream critics complained about the film's historical inaccuracies and the lack of chemistry between the two leads.

Set in 1840s England, AMMONITE is loosely based on British paleontologist Mary Anning (played by Kate Winslet) and her relationship with geologist Charlotte Murchison (played by Saoirse Ronan). Mary is a poor fossil hunter living with her ailing mother near the Southern coastline, where she spends her days searching for fossils. Her life is turned upside down when she meets Roderick Murchison, who entrusts her to look after Charlotte, his wife. The last thing Mary wants to do is babysit this man's wife, but she needs the money and takes the offer.

To make a long story short, Mary and Charlotte become lovers. Remember, the setting is in the 1800s, so it doesn't have a happy ending.

AMMONITE is only available on MOD (Manufactured-on-Demand) DVD and Blu-ray. I don't know about the DVD, but the Blu-ray only has one extra, "The Making of Ammonite," and it's only 5 minutes. The film is also available on Digital.

Final Thoughts

At first glance, AMMONITE looks like the kind of movie the critics would be drooling over. It's has a historical setting, a LGBTQ theme, and stars award-winning actresses. So, in other words, it's a movie I probably would have never watched if I hadn't received a screener.

There are two ways to watch this film - view it for what it is or nitpick the hell out of it for all the historical inaccuracies.

There's no proof of the real Mary Anning's sexuality. Yes, she never married. Yes, she had a friendship with the real Charlotte Murchison. Do these two facts make her a lesbian? According to historians, there's no evidence to prove they were nothing more than friends. The film's director/writer, Francis Lee, has a different opinion. He said on Twitter, "After seeing queer history be routinely 'straightened' throughout culture, and given a historical figure where there is no evidence whatsoever of a heterosexual relationship, is it not permissible to view that person within another context?"

If you take the historical aspects away from the film, then you might like it. However, there are many issues with the storytelling. For starters, it's dull as dishwater. No, I'm not referring to the dialogue. For whatever reason, Francis Lee decided his film doesn't need meaningful conversations between the characters, just long silent pauses.

While the film itself received mixed reviews, critics seemed to love Kate Winslet, and I couldn't disagree more. She gave an emotionless performance, except for the graphic sex scenes with Saorise Ronan. While these actresses are lovely, they have zero chemistry together.

Overall, AMMONITE is a long-drawn-out romantic drama with questionable writing and directing. Instead of focusing on Mary Anning's fictional love life, the director should have told the story about her contribution to science. It's far from being the worst movie from 2020, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

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