Before we discuss the two leads, can we pause a moment to appreciate the cinematography by Critics Choice Awards nominee Stéphane Fontaine (Jackie) in the trailer for Ammonite? It’s absolutely stunning. And both Oscar winner Kate Winslet (The Reader) and four-time Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan are perfectly matched as two lost strangers who discover strength and love in each other in this period drama.
Written and directed by Francis Lee (God’s Own Country), the cast also features Gemma Jones, James McArdle, Fiona Shaw, and Alec Secareanu.
Francis Lee came across the story of paleontologist Mary Anning and was fascinated by her life. Although not much has been written about her, Lee felt she would be the perfect subject of a feature film – but not a biopic. Instead, Lee used the little that was known about Anning as a jumping-off point.
“I wanted to continue the work I had started in my first film God’s Own Country around relationships and how we navigate ourselves within them, therefore I wanted to explore a story of Mary through the context of an intimate relationship. There is absolutely no evidence Mary ever had a relationship with anyone, whether that be heterosexual or same sex, but I knew I wanted to give her a relationship that felt worthy of her. It is well documented that she had close friendships with women and in the society of the time, where women were the subjects of men and where Mary had been virtually written out of history because of her gender and social status, it didn’t feel right to give her a relationship with a man,” explained Lee.
“I wanted to tell a heartfelt but stark love story. I wanted to capture those feelings of both trepidation and joy that come from something beginning,” stated Lee. “I wanted to see how difficult it can be to be open and vulnerable enough to love and be loved, particularly if you’ve been badly scarred by a past relationship.”
Kate Winslet concluded from her research that Mary Anning was considered to be kind and compassionate, and that she had an important story to tell. Commenting on why she took the role, Winslet said, “Her strength, her courage – I admired those qualities very much, but also her vulnerability, which she had to keep hidden. Now more than ever we’re living in a time when women are absolutely obsessed with other women and when, more than what we look like or how we feel when we walk down the street, it’s about what women have to say. Women are greater together: the more strong female voices we have, the more togetherness we show, the more examples we have of great women history – the more inspired we will feel as a community to support one another, to encourage one another and to inspire one another.”
Saiorse Ronan was attracted to the quietness of the story and to her character’s journey as a wife and lover. “What makes Charlotte quite unique, and what’s been so lovely to play, is that she’s somebody who is quite willing to take a back seat in terms of attention or being the one to shine,” explained Ronan. “Her talent comes through in putting somebody else up on a pedestal and allowing everyone to see their greatness. She’s got a great sense of humility, and she’s a very giving person. She’s someone who has been very hurt and broken, but who still has a great capacity for love and doesn’t shy away from that at all.
We can welcome Neon’s Oscar entry in theaters on November 13, 2020.
The Plot, Courtesy of Neon:
In the 1840s, acclaimed self-taught paleontologist Mary Anning works alone on the wild and brutal Southern English coastline of Lyme Regis. The days of her famed discoveries behind her, she now hunts for common fossils to sell to rich tourists to support herself and her ailing widowed mother. When one such tourist, Roderick Murchison, arrives in Lyme on the first leg of a European tour, he entrusts Mary with the care of his young wife Charlotte, who is recuperating from a personal tragedy.
Mary, whose life is a daily struggle on the poverty line, cannot afford to turn him down but, proud and relentlessly passionate about her work, she clashes with her unwanted guest. They are two women from utterly different worlds. Yet despite the chasm between their social spheres and personalities, Mary and Charlotte discover they can each offer what the other has been searching for: the realization that they are not alone. It is the beginning of a passionate and all-consuming love affair that will defy all social bounds and alter the course of both lives irrevocably.