Ammonite movie poster
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Ammonite
Ammonite movie poster

Ammonite Movie Review

Now available on Blu-ray and DVD (Buy on Amazon)

So Portrait of a Lady on Fire was an aberration after all. A year after the French lesbian romantic period drama demonstrated just how incredible a beautiful script and amazing chemistry can make a costume drama, along comes Ammonite, an English-language lesbian romantic period drama with two more recognizable stars and a notable lack of subtitles. And it’s as dull as rocks.

Kate Winslet plays Mary, a fossil hunter in 1840s England who begins a relationship with Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan), a young woman trapped in an unloving marriage. The two spend a few weeks together on a drab island doing drab things, with some sex thrown in to mix things up.

From writer/director Francise Lee (God’s Own Country), Ammonite thankfully avoids the stodginess that accompanies so many period films. The movie belies the grand colors and polite dialogue you often find in movies such as this; the picture is painted in shades of gray, black, and mud, Winslet’s character a fully realized, deep individual.

And yet, you’d expect bursts of color in what is supposed to be a passionate tale of romance.

Like the visual aspects of the film, the story too deals in grayscale, a largely unpleasing experience that lacks vibrancy or emotion. Despite featuring two of the best actresses in the world, the movie itself is a sullen bore. Neither Winslet nor Ronan are able to escape the trappings of their material, unable to unleash the full potential of their talent as they are instead seemingly forced to deliver each line with the enthusiasm of a sociopath.

Unlike Portrait of a Lady on Fire, in which the two stars played off one another, engaging each other in a multitude of ways to the degree you could feel the heat, Ammonite feels very much like a movie for Winslet in which Ronan simply plays the love (or lust?) interest. One problem is that Winslet’s character, career aside, is heinously boring, repressed, and largely unlikable that it’s hard to care for her at all. Meanwhile, Ronan’s character is so shallowly explored she feels like a shell of one, a real shame given that with just a little spark Ronan is known to create magic.

Together, the two make for an unlikely and uncharismatic pair. Their chemistry, so important in a movie like this, is nearly nonexistent; even during the film’s multiple sex scenes, something seems missing.

Ammonite isn’t without some merit, but it’s a bland movie about bland people. To waste Winslet and Ronan in such a fashion is almost criminal; the punishment should be watching this movie over and over again. Or hauling rocks.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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