|Directed by||Francis Lee|
|Written by||Francis Lee|
|Edited by||Chris Wyatt|
|Budget||< £10 million|
|Box office||$1.4 million|
Ammonite is a 2020 romantic drama film written and directed by Francis Lee. The film is loosely inspired by the life of British palaeontologist Mary Anning, played by Kate Winslet. The film centres on a speculative romantic relationship between Anning and Charlotte Murchison, played by Saoirse Ronan. Gemma Jones, James McArdle, Alec Sec?reanu, and Fiona Shaw also star.
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 11 September 2020. It was released in Australia on 14 January 2021 by Transmission Films and in the United Kingdom on 26 March 2021 by Lionsgate.
In the 1840s, fossil collector and paleontologist Mary Anning lives with her ailing mother Molly, who helps Mary run a small shop in Lyme Regis, Dorset. Mary spends the early mornings traversing the beach at low tide in search of fossils for her shop, with tiny ammonites being her most common find. When she returns, she helps her mother wash and polish a collection of eight animal figurines.
One day, geologist Roderick Murchison visits Mary's shop accompanied by his wife, Charlotte. He expresses his admiration for Mary's work and offers to pay her for a guided trip to the shore where he can learn from Mary about fossil collecting. While initially antagonistic, Mary accepts his offer. That night in their room at the Three Cups Hotel, Roderick treats Charlotte coldly, rebuffing her sexual advances as he states now is not the time to have another baby.
Roderick returns from his morning trip with Mary to the shoreline and finds Charlotte confined to her bed in a depressed state. He returns to Mary's shop and reveals Charlotte has been sent in convalescence to Lyme Regis, and entrusts her to Mary's care as he will be departing to Europe for a four- to six-week expedition. Mary reluctantly agrees, not wanting to pass up the money. Charlotte begins going out with Mary on her morning beach trips.
After bathing in the ocean as part of her rehabilitation, Charlotte falls ill with a high fever. Her physician, Dr. Lieberson, prescribes bed rest and assigns Mary to be her bedside nurse. Mary visits her friend Elizabeth Philpot, from whom she purchases a jar of salve to aid Charlotte's recovery. Mary refuses Elizabeth's friendly offer to come in for a visit. Charlotte quickly recovers and from then on accompanies Mary on more outings and tries to help with domestic chores. Together with Mary, she is able to construct a mirror frame made of cowries. Saddened by her own failed attempts to have a baby, Charlotte learns that the figurines Molly cleans every day represent her eight deceased children.
Dr. Lieberson visits the shop and invites Mary to an evening recital. Mary accepts but insists on bringing Charlotte as well, who she believes has made a full recovery. That night, Charlotte meets and mingles with the townsfolk as an overwhelmed and jealous Mary smokes outside in the rain while watching through the window. They watch a magic lantern show set to a cello performance before Mary leaves and returns home during the rainstorm. Charlotte arrives soon after and finds Mary writing a romantic poem in her journal.
Using the boards from a beached boat, Mary and Charlotte transfer a large rock to the shop. Inside, they find the fossil of an ichthyosaur similar to one Mary found at age 11 and sent to The British Museum. As they clean Mary's tools in preparation for bed, Charlotte kisses Mary goodnight; this inflames their lingering attraction, and they engage in oral sex. Their relationship blossoms, and they gleefully swim in the ocean and share their meals together. A letter soon arrives from Roderick, instructing Charlotte to return home to London. Distraught, Charlotte and Mary have passionate sex the night before Charlotte's departure. Some time later, Molly suffers a fall at home and dies soon after. Elizabeth visits the depressed Mary to express her condolences. She encourages Mary to not abandon her relationship with Charlotte, as Mary did their own romantic relationship after the death of Mary's father.
Mary receives a letter from Charlotte asking her to make the journey to London. Upon arriving at the Murchison house, Mary sees one of her large ammonite fossils on display in a glass cabinet. Charlotte takes Mary upstairs, where she shows Mary a fully furnished bedroom to move into. Perturbed, Mary leaves after accusing Charlotte of not respecting her life, stating she will not become an ornament for Charlotte to display in a "gilded cage."
At the museum, Mary makes her way through the halls of paintings and sculptures. She finds the exhibit case containing her original ichthyosaurus but finds it makes no mention of her. Charlotte arrives, and the two women gaze at each other through the glass.
In December 2018, it was announced Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan had joined the cast of the film, with Francis Lee directing the screenplay he wrote. Iain Canning, Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly and Emile Sherman serve as producers with See-Saw Films, BBC Films and the British Film Institute. In March 2019, Fiona Shaw announced her role in the film. In May 2019, it was announced Alec Secareanu, James McArdle and Gemma Jones had joined the cast of the film.
Principal photography began on 11 March 2019, in Lyme Regis, Dorset. The scenes were shot chronologically in order to deepen the immersion in the characters' psychological trajectory. David Tucker, director of the Lyme Regis Museum, consulted on the film's scientific accuracy.
In February 2019, Lionsgate and Transmission Films acquired UK and Australian distribution rights to Ammonite, respectively. In January 2020, Neon acquired US and Canadian distribution rights to the film for $3 million. Ammonite was set to world premiere at that year's Cannes Film Festival, prior to its cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also selected to screen at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado in September of that year, prior to its cancellation also due to the pandemic.
Ammonite had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 11 September. Winslet was awarded TIFF's Tribute Actor Award. Ammonite has or is scheduled to be screened at several film festivals including Deauville, Hamptons, Mill Valley, Newfest, Ghent, London, Chicago and Montclair.
In its opening weekend the film grossed $87,552 from 280 theatres.
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 69% based on 234 reviews, with an average rating of 6.70/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The chemistry between Saoirse Ronan and a never-better Kate Winslet helps Ammonite transcend its period romance trappings." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 72 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Katie Rife of The A.V. Club gave the film a B- for a lack of chemistry between the leads and an inconsistent tone: "this is a film that runs either burning-hot or bone-chilling cold, contrasting blue toes dipping into freezing, frothy sea water with flushed cheeks and tousled updos in post-coital repose". The Hollywood Reporter placed the movie number 4 at their best films of 2020 year-end list. The film was placed at the 27th position on the Indiewire list of the 50 Best Movies of 2020 and 43rd at the Esquire year-end list. The movie also appeared on the RogerEbert.com "The Best Films of 2020" year-end list.
There is no evidence as to Anning's sexuality in real life, and the film's historical accuracy has been questioned. Two of Anning's distant relatives were reported as having differing views on the decision to depict her as a lesbian, with Lorraine Anning supporting the film, but Barbara Anning criticizing the choice.
Lee defended his decision, saying in a series of tweets, "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? Would these newspaper writers have felt the need to whip up uninformed quotes from self-proclaimed experts if the character's sexuality had been assumed to be heterosexual?" Some reviews also criticized the choice. A piece in The Guardian read, "No one knows if Mary Anning had lovers. But what a new film does get right is the vital role women played in her life".
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref.|
|AACTA International Awards||6 March 2021||Best Supporting Actress||Saoirse Ronan||Nominated|||
|ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards||17 May 2021||Film Score of the Year||Volker Bertelmann||Nominated|||
|British Academy Film Awards||11 April 2021||BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design||Michael O'Connor||Nominated|||
|British Independent Film Awards||18 February 2021||Best Costume Design||Michael O'Connor||Nominated|||
|Best Make Up & Hair Design||Ivana Primorac||Nominated|
|Casting Society of America Awards||15 April 2021||Artios Award for Outstanding Achievement in Casting - Studio or Independent Feature (Comedy)||Fiona Weir||Nominated|||
|Dorian Awards||18 April 2021||Best LGBTQ Film||Ammonite||Nominated|||
|GLAAD Media Award||8 April 2021||GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film - Limited Release||Ammonite||Nominated|||
|Hollywood Music in Media Awards||27 January 2021||Best Original Score in an Independent Film||Dustin O'Halloran and Volker Bertelmann||Nominated|||
|London Film Critics' Circle||7 February 2021||Technical Achievement (cinematography)||Stéphane Fontaine||Nominated|||
|North Dakota Film Society Awards||15 January 2021||Best Actress||Kate Winslet||Nominated|||
|Best Supporting Actress||Saoirse Ronan||Nominated|
|Best Original Score||Dustin O'Halloran and Volker Bertelmann||Nominated|
|Online Association of Female Film Critics||1 March 2021||Best Cinematography||Stéphane Fontaine||Nominated|||
|San Francisco International Film Festival||18 December 2020||SFFILM Sloan Science in Cinema Prize||Ammonite||Won|||
|Satellite Awards||15 February 2021||Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama||Kate Winslet||Nominated|||
|Seville International FIlm Festival||14 November 2020||Golden Giraldillo||Ammonite||Nominated|||
|The International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography Camerimage||21 November 2020||Golden Frog||Ammonite||Nominated|||
|Women Film Critics Circle Awards||8 March 2021||Best Movie About Women||Ammonite||Runner-up|||
|Best Screen Couple||Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan||Won|
|Best Kept Secret - Overlooked Challenging Gems||Ammonite||Won|