Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: Ammonite

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Copyright: Lionsgate

You know what’s duller than looking for fossils on a cold beach two centuries ago? Nothing. There is no conceivable concept more tedious than traipsing around a windy, sodden beach, looking for rocks to draw. Ammonite is a film about doing just that, and the unexpected romance between two women under the thumb of their work or their husband respectively. The shackles of expected societal roles are prevalent, but revolted against. Lust and passion become the core focus of both the leading characters in a film that should provide a necessary and effective message with a key focus on such great performers. 

We’re whisked away to the 1840s, a place of strife and struggle for our leading characters. A grey palette of colours leads the way to capture such a cold and brutal time to be alive. But this cold and brutal feeling never disperses, even in times of passion and romance between our leading characters. Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan make for exceptional performers, most of the time. Ammonite feels a tad underwhelming in spots, a fault of the writing, which director Francis Lee takes no shame in extending to the most painfully mundane of lengths. Snappy, unique dialogue is nowhere to be found. This is just another passionless drama that, ironically, has passion at the heart of its story. For a story detailing a fluttering romance that defied all odds and fought back against the social norms of the time, it’s a shame Ammonite can do nothing at all. 

A truly a tragic tale to be found in this one, but the sluggish approach Lee takes to the story makes for lengthy lulls in engaging content. Nobody leaves a mark worth remembering. It’s hard to connect with these characters, as solid as the performances are. Although Lee’s direction is amicable, he doesn’t coax anything magnificent out of either his cast or crew. Fiona Shaw also appears, but also gives us nothing to write home about. Perhaps the issue here is that Lee takes these cold tones to the extreme, and creates a product that succeeds so well at being icy and harsh, that it takes it out on the audience as well as the starring protagonists. 

A decent enough period piece that relies on Lee’s understated flair. Ammonite will break down no topics of interest, nor will its leading performers craft something truly memorable. Consistent as they all are, there simply isn’t anything on display here that could be considered overwhelmingly good. Sadly, Ammonite will toil in mediocrity, and soon be cast into a sea of completely forgotten features. Really, it’s just rather boring. Not entirely the most engaged dissection of a film making the festival rounds, but there’s nothing unique about this one aside from a few of Lee’s shot choices. A film that will become what its title declares, a bit of old fossil someone may discover years from now, and find vague value in.