As we put 2020 in the rear-view mirror, we're looking ahead to a brighter and better future in 2021. That means you can expect to see lots of Cineworld blog content about upcoming movies.
Today, we're looking in detail at eagerly anticipated period drama Ammonite, which stands to emerge as an Oscar contender. Scroll down to find out more.
What is the story of Ammonite?
Inspired by real events, Ammonite is set during the 19th century on the wind-battered Jurassic Coast of Lyme Regis. The story re-imagines the relationship between real-life women Mary Anning, a self-taught paleontologist, and her friend Charlotte Murchison.
In the movie, Anning is an observant and knowledgable student of paleontology but has been shut out from the male-dominated patriarchy. She's taken to running a fossil shop with her ill mother, but her life changes when she's tasked with looking after the melancholic, upper-class Murchison.
Charlotte's rich husband hopes that the Dorset climate will prove to be a convalescent cure for his wife. However, after a frosty start, emphasised by the class divide, the two women develop a passionate physical affair. How long can Anning and Murchison hope to fly in the face of social convention?
Who stars in Ammonite?
The introverted and stony Anning is played by Kate Winslet, no stranger to prestige pictures. She grabbed her first Oscar nomination in 1995 for Jane Austen adaptation Sense and Sensibility, and her second for James Cameron's record-busting disaster epic Titanic. (She soon reunites with Cameron on Avatar 2.) She eventually won Best Actress for 2008's The Reader.
Winslet's career has been distinguished by her portrayal of individualistic, driven characters, from Peter Jackson's acclaimed true crime drama Heavenly Creatures to the trippy and delirious rom-com Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Anning is the latest in a long line of strong women portrayals from Winslet, and the character's emotional awakening gives the movie its power.
The role of Murchison, meanwhile, is taken by Saoirse Ronan, one of the most dynamic and versatile actors of the moment. She recently landed an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her portrayal of the headstrong Jo March in Greta Gerwig's Little Women. And this was preceded by a host of acclaimed roles in the likes of Brooklyn (another Oscar-nominated turn), The Grand Budapest Hotel, Hanna and Atonement (for which she became the seventh-youngest Oscar nominee for Best Supporting Actress).
Backing up this formidable central duo is a talented supporting cast. Bridget Jones's Diary's Gemma Jones plays Anning's afflicted mother, Harry Potter's Fiona Shaw plays a kindly neighbour with a secret and God's Own Country's Alec Secareanu plays a town doctor. And on that note...
Who directs Ammonite?
Ammonite is directed by Francis Lee, who scored a critical hit in 2017 with God's Own Country, his feature film debut. It was a sensitively observed LGBTQ drama, looking at the slow-burn relationship between two men, one a gruff Yorkshire farmer, the other a Romanian immigrant worker.
No sentimental story of romance, God's Own Country had its boots firmly planted in the mud and earth of the windswept Yorkshire moors. The central performances, from The Crown's Josh O'Connor and the aforementioned Alec Secareanu, lent grit and emotional authenticity to the story, as two men make a connection that ultimately sweeps them off their feet. (The movie also starred Ammonite's Gemma Jones as the tough-loving grandmother of O'Connor's character.)
God's Own Country was universally acclaimed with Empire editor Terri White describing it as: "A stunning love story that in its finest moments is pure poetry." Lee would go on to win a clutch of awards, including the World Cinema Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Award for Best British Independent Film. He was also nominated for the BAFTA for Outstanding British Film.
Expectations are therefore sky-high for Ammonite, which is similarly concerned with identity and sexuality in the midst of a seemingly judgmental world. It's clearly a subject Lee is skilled in dramatising, although he has explicitly stated that Ammonite "is not a biopic". Rather, it mixes and matches fact and fiction to craft an arresting love story.
What behind the scenes information is there on Ammonite?
Lee told HeyUGuys it was the contrast between Mary’s background and what she achieved that drew him to her story: “The things that really struck me about her were that she was a working-class woman, born into poverty, with no education or advantage, who rose to being – albeit unrecognised – what we see now as the leading palaeontologist of her generation."
He added: "That really struck a chord with me – I obsess about class, and gender, and representation, and there was this working-class woman in a totally patriarchal, class-ridden society, who achieved so much.”
Asked why he wanted Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan to play Mary and Charlotte, Lee says: “I love transformative actors – people who play people who are different from themselves, emotionally and physically – and so casting is super, super important. Both Kate and Saoirse were top of my list – I was very lucky that they accepted, and I was very honoured that they both trusted me enough and wanted to work in the way in which I like to work, which is a very detailed, immersive, character-driven way.”
What Oscars is Ammonite competing for?
Although the 2021 Oscar nominations have yet to be announced, we can expect Ammonite to be a frontrunner in the Best Actress and Supporting Actress categories. The movie had the honour of closing the 2020 BFI London Film Festival, which when coupled with the natural prestige of the main stars and the director, might give it some weight with the Oscar voters.
The 2021 Oscars have been pushed back from February to April, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. Deadline reports that the Oscar nominations will be announced on 15th March 2021.