Ammonite (CREDIT: NEON)

Starring: Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Fiona Shaw, Gemma Jones, James McArdle

Director: Francis Lee

Running Time: 120 Minutes

Rating: R for Some Quite Graphic Bedroom Scenes

Release Date: November 13, 2020 (Theaters)/December 4, 2020 (On Demand)

Man, if you’re into rocks AND forbidden love stories, you’re gonna love Ammonite. Me personally, I can certainly enjoy the latter, though they can be heart-wrenchingly bittersweet. As for the former, rocks definitely serve their purpose here on Earth, but I’m not particularly inclined to spend an entire day studying them. Nor am I particularly inclined to watch a movie that dedicates a good portion of itself to people doing just that. But I always aim to be open-minded, so I decided to give Ammonite a chance to see if it could win me over. Ultimately, it all went about exactly as I would have expected, with the paleontology scenes making me go, “Wow, Kate Winslet sure does enjoy studying fossils a lot more than I ever would” and the romance scenes making me go, “Wow, Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan sure do trust each other enough to get really, really explicit.”

It’s the 1840s on the Southern English coast. Winslet plays Mary Anning, who is now officially the most passionate paleontologist I’ve ever heard of. She supports herself and her mother by selling fossils to tourists, and one of those folks, geologist Roderick Murchison (James McArdle), offers her something rather unique. His wife Charlotte (Ronan) is suffering from one of those vague 19th century illnesses that result in general exhaustion, and he’s entrusted Mary to caring after her. Mary and Charlotte proceed to spend plenty of time alone, thus awakening passions that are generally not spoken about in polite British society.

Like most other recent period queer love stories I’ve encountered, the affair between Mary and Charlotte is able to thrive in a little pocket of the larger world. There’s even a hint that it could last indefinitely. So I’m fascinated that the ultimate roadblock for these two is less about society frowning upon them and more about the struggle to bridge the gap between their very different lives. Mary is so married to her work that she cannot imagine uprooting herself in any way (there’s also the matter of supporting her mother). With Ammonite so firmly foregrounded in the literal ground, it comes off as rather quotidian and even dispassionate (though certainly not shy). So in conclusion, I haven’t suddenly been inspired to start studying fossils myself, but I am still heartbroken when two star-crossed souls can’t quite make it work.

Ammonite is Recommended If You Like: Fossils, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Rocks on the beach, Walks on the beach

Grade: 3 out of 5 Rocks