After delivering a stifled and stoic romance with God’s Own Country, Francis Lee returns with a film that is largely similar to his previous effort. Ammonite is a new closeted duet mired in harsh natural elements and punctuated with hungered sexual catharsis., and centered on a protagonist of few words. Again, Lee makes an unfeeling physical world to embody the limitations faced by gay people in a straight world; here it’s all crashing waves, frozen stone, and shaly mud. But Ammonite takes us back nearly two hundred years, offering a fictionalized account of paleontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) and a love affair with the married Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan).Continue reading “In Review: Ammonite”
What happens when you truncate a classic in both narrative and spirit? In the case of Michael Mayer’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, the result is a rather meddlesome inertia. One of the foundational pieces for the modern global theatre, Chekhov’s play has resonated throughout the past century for its depth in depicting the ultimately tragic myopias of its large ensemble of characters. While this version is often lovely, it’s more of a revisit than a fresh take.
Glossy and gorgeous, John Crowley’s Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan as the young Eilis (that’s “ay-lish”) emigrating from Ireland to 1950s New York City, leaving behind her family and small village for the promises of American opportunity. Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby (the About a Boy and High Fidelity novelist) craft a world populated with vibrant characters to prevent the drab cliches one might expect from such a plot in a film with such mainstream intentions. A current of fierce passion runs underneath the pristine surface, with Saoirse Ronan’s eloquent performance elevating the entire endeavor.
Tasked with a massive character arc and range of emotional beats, Ronan has to carry the weight of the film squarely on her face. The film’s power is thanks mostly to her ability to wordlessly express Eilis’s internal struggle, from girlish meekness to forthright womanhood, from wide-eyed ignorance to comfort within her own skin. Crowley and cinematographer Yves Bélanger are clearly fascinated with her face, and who could blame them with her astounding ability to push the narrative with even the slightest movement in her features. Ronan motivates Eilis’s struggle with shades of discovery and despair, covering that she’s written a bit thinly. It’s a classic movie star performance not just for its emotive expressionism, but for the confidence given to rely on her abilities to connect with the audience.