Ammonite ★★½

What Francis Lee made in God’s Own Country is a film that lays more importance in the things that aren’t said as opposed to the things that are; a story told more tangibly in gestures and quiet moments between its two leads rather than any dramatic declarations of love. It’s a popular trend in modern romance — specifically queer romance — and Francis Lee utilized it to a fairly strong effect in his debut. With Ammonite, he capitalizes on it even more, only this time it’s the film’s greatest detriment. 

Kate and Saoirse simply do not have chemistry. They look at each other in quiet moments and it doesn’t feel at all like love or even warmth, it feels like a bitter friendship. The space between them in these quiet moments feels empty and cold. I don’t believe either of these characters really cared that deeply about each other and the romance feels so forced when it gets there (and their first kiss is just laughable). It’s as if it’s trying to be the latest big addition to the queer romance phenomenon that’s been happening throughout the past few years without actually caring if the characters should actually be in romance with each other to begin with. The entire movie hinges on that dynamic and it never really lands. On a different note, I do think the film does capture a place and time quite beautifully. The wind and the waves of this beach town are a transportive presence that still allows for some level of captivation within a very bland film. I don’t think it’s as bad as it was made out to be — it still subverts typical period drama trappings and displays that Francis Lee IS a fine director even if he’s not a great writer — but it can’t help but squander all that it has going for it.

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