TIFF 2020: Ammonite Review

This will be one of many reviews during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, to keep up with our latest coverage, click here.

Ever since before Ammonite was announced that it would premiere at this year’s now-cancelled Cannes Film Festival, it has been surrounded by plenty of award buzz thanks to its two leads, Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. Now it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that they deliver some of their best performances here but it is the film surrounding them that will most likely be contentious for some and that fact will make it not be for everyone (perhaps more so than it already was).

Some may find Ammonite on the slow and/or boring side which could make it hard to watch as it sets up its story that saw veteran fossil hunter Mary Anning (Winslet) who developed feelings for a young affluent convalescent woman named Charlotte Murchison (Ronan) for whom she reluctantly accepted to be put in her care in 1840s London. Of course their relationship didn’t start off that way as the guarded Anning was in no mood to bring another person into her life of reasonable solitude, taking refuge in her work, alongside her ailing mother Molly (Jones). On the other end of the class spectrum, Murchison lived a fortunate life albeit one as an object of her controlling husband Roderick’s (James McArdle) .

As Ammonite went on Anning and Murchison’s grew closer as the former slowly but surely let her guard down as the latter’s condition improved. The film portrayed this in the subtlest of ways emphasized by camerawork. Watching these damaged women in need of human connection finally open up to one another and let each other’s walls come down was truly beautiful to watch, eventually developing into a torrid relationship. But as always, all good things must come to an end and that stark realization was certainly not an easy watch.

Meanwhile, Ammonite‘s cinematography was just as if not more beautiful than the story, taking full of advantage of the coastal landscape and small town where the film was shot, the actual town where the real Mary Anning worked and collected fossils. In the end, the best part of the film was the aforementioned spectacular performances of Winslet and Ronan and their chemistry as Anning and Murchison respectively.

The film would definitely not have worked without them, bringing their characters’ believable relationship to life. Each stood out in their own way with Winslet showing great command with an understated yet powerful performance while Ronan showed vulnerability unlike anything we’ve ever seen from her. The two of them together were simply magic.

At the end of the day, Ammonite won’t appeal to everyone but Winslet and Ronan are well worth the price of admission.

still courtesy of Elevation Pictures

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