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Francis Lee
Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Fiona Shaw
Writing Credits:
Francis Lee

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

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 117 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 1/22/2021

• “Making Ammonite” Featurette


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Ammonite [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 16, 2021)

With 2020’s Ammonite, two of today’s most acclaimed actors unite. To my moderate surprise, this becomes the first time Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan have worked together, though probably not the last.

Based on a true story, Ammonite takes us to the mid-19th century. Paleontologist Mary Anning (Winslet) enjoyed great discoveries, but she didn’t earn the recognition she deserved.

Now in her forties, Mary struggles to make a living. Rather than search for rare fossils, she gathers common items to vend to tourists along the coast of southern England.

Into this setting comes Charlotte Murchison (Ronan), the wife of wealthy Roderick Murchison (James McArdle). Charlotte needs to convalesce, and Roderick offers Mary a nice payday if she’ll help care for his ailing wife.

Because she also tends to her sick mother Molly (Gemma Jones), Mary needs the money, so she agrees. This sets up a complicated relationship between Mary and Charlotte.

It seems prescient that Ammonite concentrates on the exploits of a woman who uncovers fossils. Perhaps as an homage to Mary’s profession, the story moves at a pace so slow that it rivals the fossilization process.

I guess I can see why Winslet and Ronan signed onto the movie, as opportunities to star in such female-centric stories don’t come around every day. In addition, Ammonite seems to give off a level of gravitas that they might churn their performances into Oscar consideration.

And maybe they will. Ammonite received a minor theatrical exhibition in the US, and given the topsy-turvy world of the COVID-19 era, who knows what this year’s Academy Awards will be like? Known talents like Winslet and Ronan can easily ride the film to nominations.

I won’t claim they don’t deserve credit for their performances, for whatever issues we find with Ammonite - and we discover plenty – the actors don’t contribute to the problems. While I can’t claim Winslet and Ronan display immense chemistry, they add credibility to their roles and play them as convincingly as possible.

Actually, Ronan impresses me here, mainly because my last few experiences with her demonstrated diminishing returns. While I liked Ronan in early efforts, her more recent flicks like Little Women showed an actor who lacked subtlety. As I said in that review, “she scowls, she frowns, she gesticulates, she flares nostrils - she does pretty much everything other than really act.”

Happily, Ronan tones down her act here and delivers a much more natural performance. Granted, some of that may stem from the role itself, as Charlotte offers little room for the emoting Ronan exhibited in Little Women, but it nonetheless comes as a relief to see that she still knows how to deliver a subdued, naturalistic performance.

Unfortunately, they find themselves with thin, lightly-sketched characters who exist more as archetypes than real people. Ammonite sets itself up as a deep tale of forbidden love, but instead, it just offers a sluggish drag.

Neither Mary nor Charlotte ever comes across as a real person. Instead, they seem like one-dimensional stereotypes, and their illicit romance lacks real passion, as it never becomes especially clear why they dig each other.

That’s because Ammonite really does fail to explore the two. We find ourselves burdened with slow, superfluous scenes that convey atmosphere and little more, a factor that makes the tale unfold at a snail’s pace and never involve the viewer.

Ammonite does offer a surprisingly graphic sex scene, so it you want to watch two of today’s most honored actresses go to town on each other, live it up! As a dramatic story, though, Ammonite fails to locate a pulse.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus D

Ammonite appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a satisfying presentation.

Sharpness tended to be positive. A few shots showed a smidgen of softness, usually during interiors, where dim lighting led to a mild lack of definition. Overall, though, detail seemed good.

I noticed no signs of jaggies or edge haloes, and shimmering was absent. The film lacked print flaws and seemed clean.

Many period pieces opt for subdued palettes, and that was true here, as the colors tended toward teal tones.. These appeared fine within the film’s stylistic choices.

Blacks seemed dark and tight, and shadows demonstrated good clarity. I found this to be worth a “B+”.

A character drama wouldn’t seem to be a candidate for a dynamic soundtrack, but the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of Ammonite offered a pretty terrific soundscape. In particular, the scenes by the sea roared to life, as waves and weather engulfed the viewer.

Other segments brought involvement, as the creaks of the house used the speakers well. Add to that solid stereo music and this turned into an active five-channel mix.

Audio quality satisfied. The music was full and rich, while effects showed nice clarity and accuracy, with strong low-end.

Speech appeared concise and crisp. This turned into a surprisingly strong soundtrack.

The Making of Ammonite runs five minutes, 43 seconds and offers notes from writer/director Francis Lee, costume designer Michael O’Connor, and actors Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan.

“Making” looks at story and characters, cast/performances, costumes and period details. A few minor details emerge but this mostly becomes a promo piece.

With two of this era’s most acclaimed actors, Ammonite seemed likely to provide an engaging drama. Though Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan give it their best, the movie’s lack of depth and sluggish pace make it a disappointment. The Blu-ray comes with very good picture and audio but it lacks much in terms of bonus materials. Despite good talent involved, Ammonite doesn’t work.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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