Sunday, June 26, 2022

Ammonite: a speculative same sex romance

Greetings, commies! 

It's Pride month, so I thought it would be fitting to review a film featuring a same sex love story. If you are in a mood for a beautifully shot slow burner, check out Ammonite, starring my two favorite actresses, Kate Winslet and Saiorse Ronan. 


1840s England, acclaimed fossil hunter Mary Anning and a young woman sent to convalesce by the sea develop an intense relationship, altering both of their lives forever.

My thoughts:

I said it before about the French film "Portrait of a Lady On Fire", and the same idea applies to this review. A same sex love story should not be used as an excuse for lazy writing. Imagine if this was a heterosexual love story. Would you feel cheated out of a richer, more engaging plotline and character development? Some writers think that just because the story is about two women, that alone should carry the weight of the film. 

First things first, the social context. Some may not realize, but in Victorian England, two women in love could get away with much more than their male counterparts. It was not uncommon for women to form romantic friendships, live together for periods of time, and not be suspected of "immoral behavior". A spinster and a young wife spending a lot of time in each other's company would probably not raise any eyebrows. Public hand-holding, embraces and kisses were regarded as tokens of tender affection. Women were believed to be "too pure" for any kind of deviant behavior. So the two lovers in "Ammonite" were not exactly endangering themselves. 

Yes, the cinematography is sublime. The ambience is moody and brooding. But there is only so much the finest of actresses can do with a dull, unimaginative script. There are too many narrative gaps, too many proverbial guns that were never fired. One of such guns is the infamous Mr. Murchison. He is not even two-dimensional - he is an empty shell, a sketch of a character. I can certainly appreciate leaving to the viewer's imagination, but his character was just left in its embryonic form, and that's a shame. He is reduced to a cold, patriarchal talking head. There could've been so much more to him. Why is he so reluctant to engage with his wife in intimacy? Could he be struggling with some same sex attractions as well? I wish he had been developed more. 

Now, the much-anticipated love scenes. I found them a little too ... "expert"? These two women are supposedly unversed in the art of same sex love. It must be new and awkward for both of them. Yet they seem to know what to do right off the bat. 

Nobody expected a happy ending, but its bitterness was a little unconvincing. The main character pretty much throws away her chance at happiness. There is really nothing standing in their way, no harsh conventions. We have Mr. Murchison, who is immersed in his newly found hobby, who has no interest in his wife. Yet Mary harshly rejects her young lover's attempts at building a future together. 

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