Rated R, 118 minutes
The moving, superbly acted new costume and lesbian romance drama "Ammonite" is a fictional take on two real people from writer and director Francis Lee ("God's Own Country"). Slow-moving yet subtle and highly provocative, it's a worthwhile slowburn thanks to the chemistry of its two lead actresses, who are bound for accolades in their roles.
Acclaimed paleontologist Mary Anning (Oscar-winner Kate Winslet) works alone selling common fossils to tourists to support her ailing mother, but a chance job offer changes her life when she is hired to look after a young woman named Charlotte Murchison (Oscar-nominee Saiorse Ronan), and the two fall in love.
"Ammonite" is a compelling, subtle character-driven piece and look at Anning's life and a supposed affair with Murchison in 1840's Britain. Lee's assured direction provides strong, realistic turns from both Winslet and Ronan in brave turns from A-list actresses. Their memorable chemistry highlights the film, particularly in the steamy sex scenes that will have people talking. The downside is the sluggish pacing in between those films (and in the very slow first act) which makes it feel longer than necessary, the love scenes are an added plus given the film's backdrop - paleontology - isn't exactly all that exciting.
Even with some of its flaws, Winslet and Ronan make it worth watching, and it's helped by the lovely photography from award-winning cinematographer Stephane Fontaine ("Captain Fantastic," "Jackie") and the sweet, dramatic score from Dustin O'Halloran and Volker Bertelmann. Both actresses are very compelling, especially Winslet as the bookish, plain Anning, while Ronan is solid as the troubled wife who helps open Anning up a bit.
"Ammonite" is moving down the stretch, and the final exchange between Winslet and Ronan is a memorable one. It's worth a look for their chemistry, though you won't know more about paleontology after the film is over.