In Defence of “Ammonite” (2020) by Francis Lee |IcthusBookCorner

Ammonite, set in the 1840s, follows Mary Anning. Mary was a British palaeontologist whose work was undervalued due to her being a woman. She sold her findings to different men, who then presented the findings as being theirs. Mary Anning was a real person, from a working-class background and even nowadays her work is not as valued as it should be.

Francis Lee, the director and writer of the film, is obsessed with classgender and landscape (he has said so in interviews in the past), which is visible in his earlier film Gods Own Country. So, it is clear why this woman, who was born into poverty and with no formal education but was able to be one of the best professionals in her field, is someone the director found fascinating. Not to mention, 19th-century England was a patriarchal and utterly classist society, which makes everything about Mary Anning even more intriguing.

The director has also stated that he wanted to “look into same-sex relationships in this patriarchal class-ridden society”. Since Mary Anning had been both looked over and used by men for her scientific discoveries, Francis Lee felt it was better to depict her having a relationship with a woman rather than a man. And given that there were no records of her ever having been in a relationship with a man, while there were several romantic letters between her and other women, this made even more sense.

Now, I truly enjoyed this film. It had several things that I am interested in, such as female leadswomen in sciencebeautiful landscapesaccurate depictions of working-class people, and the list goes on. 

I get that it is a slow film with very few lines, which is not for everyone. But it is my cup of tea. What I did not like to see was a lot of people saying how it doesn’t compare to other films with queer female leads (namely Portrait of a Lady on Fire). People were comparing films that, besides the already stated, had nothing else in common. They are not the same, and the intents were not the same. Just because both of these films have queer female leads walking along the seaside, it doesn’t make them the same.

Portrait of a Lady on Firewhich I loved, has nothing to do with working-class women being recognized for their work. It’s about two people who meet under a circumstance where they know there is no future for them and about the power of the gaze (of how you perceive others and others perceive you).

Anyway, I think people comparing these “types” of films is a symptom of something else. I truly believe it is the result of there being very few films with a queer female love interest, not just that get made, but that actually get mainstream recognition.

So, I hope my little rant made sense. If it is something you are interested in, I highly recommend all of the films mentioned in this pseudo-review. Please, let me know what to think about it.


You can find me at: