History lost in the passion
- Ammonite review by PD
This one concerns the life and work of Mary Anning, whose contributions to palaeontology influenced Darwin. It depicts a middle-aged Anning, played by Kate Winslet, being acclaimed for her work but being also overlooked within the scientific community. She lives a modest life on the Jurassic coast, spending most of her days searching for fossils to sell to tourists in order to support herself and her mother. But the mundane routine of her life is disrupted by the arrival of a young middle-class woman, Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan), who has been instructed to convalesce by the sea by her husband, Roderick. The pair quickly develop an intense relationship that changes their lives.
The film is beautifully shot and unsurprisingly well-acted, but, watchable as it undoubtedly is, I'm coming away thinking Mary Anning has been sold short here. Yes, it makes us painfully aware that Anning was getting a raw deal in professional terms, and that, as well as being female, one of her major disadvantages was her working-class roots. But unfortunately there is very little exploration of this due to the central focus on a romantic lesbian relationship, of which there is absolutely no historical justification beyond (presumably) an inference from the fact that Anning never married.
Lee wants to portray two lonely women united by the constraints of their gender within a patriarchal society - but while this is may well be a laudable aim, it plays havoc with what we know of Murchison, who, far from being restricted in opportunity by a controlling husband, was in fact the impetus behind his career. Interestingly also, the real Murchison was about a decade older than Mary, whereas her the age difference is switched so that Anning is the senior of the pair, which is very odd. Worse still, Mary was emphatically NOT some kind of misanthropic outsider. She maintained a number of close female friendships and professional relationships throughout her life, notably Elizabeth Philpot, who built on Anning's work. Philpot does appear (played by Fiona Shaw), but here she takes the form of a local villager whose relationship with Anning is somewhat strained, Philpot's charm and warmth serving as a mirror to Anning's aloofness; predictably, there is a suggestion that Philpot is a former lover of Anning, and that this is the source of the tension between the two. I find this a shame, because we have no indication that this was the case - quite the contrary in fact.
Perhaps a more historically accurate (or at least plausible) film would not have received the attention that this has got. And of course it's perfectly possible just to ignore the fact that it's based on Mary Anning and just let the tale stand in its own right. But I still find it a bit of a pity that the 'real' Anning is lost amongst the passion: surely a tale of the dawn of science meets female enablement would have been of interest? It says a lot about us, I fear, that we just can't let Anning's intellectual achievements speak for themselves.
7 out of 7 members found this review helpful.
An engaging period watch, though VERY roughly based on historical happenings
- Ammonite review by ST
See the PD review for the historical detail that has been malformed.
... but for anyone who likes period fiction, with great acting, and an engaging plot this is a fine piece IMHO.
Just remember to not let it rewrite historical fact in your mind. As of course you wouldn't with 'The Favorite' or 'The Death od Stalin'
0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.