Written and directed by Francis Lee, Ammonite is set in the 1840s and follows once-acclaimed paleontologist Mary Anning (Winslet), who works alone on the Southern English coastline of Lyme Regis.
With the days of her fame behind her, she’s stern and doesn’t exactly like the company of others. She spends her time digging up common fossils to sell to rich tourists to support herself and her ailing widowed mother (Gemma Jones).
Mary receives an unwelcome visit from fellow scientist Roderick Murchison (James McArdle), who hopes to accompany her on one of her daily excavations. Beside him – but not really with him – is his troubled wife, Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan).
Murchison asks Mary to keep his wife company who is recuperating from a personal tragedy. The two are from totally different worlds Mary struggles while living on the poverty line while Charlotte comes from privilege — but opposites attract. Realising their bond, the two eventually enter a passionate — and forbidden love affair.
Some of Mary Anning’s living relatives have disputed the movies portrayal of her relationship with Murchison, arguing that Anning’s sexuality was unconfirmed.
However, director Lee has defended the storyline on social media, writing in part: “After seeing queer history be routinely ‘straightened’ throughout culture, and given a historical figure where there is no evidence whatsoever of a heterosexual relationship, is it not permissible to view that person within another context…?”
He added: “As a working class, queer film maker, I continually explore the themes of class, gender, sexuality within my work, treating my truthful characters with utter respect and I hope giving them authentic respectful lives and relationships they deserve.”
Ammonite is currently scheduled for release in November, and on demand December.