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Francis Lee’s follow-up to the wonderful God’s Own Country fails to elicit genuine affection for the two leads and thus leaves you cold, despite decent performances by Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan.

It's hard not to notice the many similarities between Ammonite and director Francis Lee's previous feature, God's Own Country. Both movies centre around a meeting of two softspoken people who gradually let their guard down against the backdrop of a rugged British landscape, in this case the 19th century coastal town of Lyme Regis.

Yet while God's Own Country excelled in fashioning genuine affection for the two lovers, Ammonite is emotionally as cold as the fossilised fragments that form both a core plot device and a far too obvious metaphor. It would be easy to blame this on the icy demeanour of Kate Winslet's character, but I rather liked her idiosyncratic take on the role.

Much more troublesome in my book are the suddenness of the attraction between her and co-star Saoirse Ronan, with barely a hint of sexual friction before butterflies flutter in their stomachs, and a surplus of restraint in the way the narrative unfolds, until the film ends on a moment of forced drama that won't convince anyone.

Lee does has some nicely constructed visuals up his sleeve but in his sophomore feature already feels like he's repeating himself.

release: 2020

director: Francis Lee

starring: Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Jones, James McArdle


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