Fossils, a lesbian romance and a missed opportunity–“Ammonite”

Kate Winslet and Sairose Ronan in “Ammonite”

The ammonites (a type of the ammonoid subclass) existed from 200 million years ago and became extinct at the same time as the dinosaurs (66 million years ago). These organisms grew by adding chambers to outside ring and continuing their shell’s spiral, so that fossil ammonites this large are extremely rare.

What are the odds that there’d be two period films featuring wind-swept beaches, forbidden love with a troubled young woman, and an ending that may not be happily ever after? Last year’s Oscar-nominated French film, Portrait of a Woman on Fire and this year’s Ammonite starring Kate Winlet as Mary Anning, an English paleontologist, have much in common. It’s rare to see films that feature woman excelling at crafts usually portrayed as the purview of men; portrait artist and fossil wrangler. In last year’s lush, romantic tale, a mood of gothic tragedy is enhanced by the cinematography and score. Ammonite sets the tone with a makeup-free Kate Winslet slidding down a cliff on the English Channel and arriving home with her latest fossil covered in dirt and sand. Music is minimal, lighting is harsh and the romantic scenes are more of a frantic nature with mouths covered to stifle moans.

Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan give marvelous performances. You know they would. Still, the tale has a muffled feel…as if the story was yearning to be MORE. We learn little about the history of Mary Anning and though she’s not known to have had relationships with women, there seems to be no reason to not create a relationship to shed some light on this (literal) ground-breaking woman. You’re left wanting to know if she ever reaped the rewards of her hard work in her time.

The film highlights her financial struggles and how her work was often attributed to others. Her Wikipedia page reveals this line that would’ve made a nice coda to the film: In 2010, 163 years after her death, the Royal Society included Anning in a list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science.[8] Director Francis Lee choose to create a romance around this historical figure. She also wrote the screenplay. It was likely wise to add sex and intrigue to get this story to the big screen and attract big stars. If only there was more of Mary Anning’s real life on the display.

Note the band of white light at the bottom of the screen. Lights on the minute credits rolled; folks want to get HOME

I traveled to the Drive-In in Poughkeepsie, NY to watch this film at the Woodstock Film Festival. Programmers decided to create double features to ensure that audiences would turn out for the earlier screening featuring local talent. The hotly-anticipated “Hollywood” films are the later feature. I applaud the effort to spread the love but it’s asking a lot of your audience with 2 hour + running times and 9:30pm start times. Many people had a long drive home. One of the unique experiences I’ve discovered from my Drive-In visits of late; it’s fun to drive off still listening to the film’s soundtrack till the signal fades. It’s as if you’re taking the movie with you as you savor your thoughts about the film.

Drinks with films rating: 🍺🍺🍺 glasses of British beer (out of 5)

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