The pair play palaeontologist Mary Anning (Kate) and geologist Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse), with the pair developing an intense relationship.
Set in 1840s England, the pair embark on a passionate love affair after meeting and clashing, before falling for each other.
It’s definitely got a stellar cast – including the likes of Fiona Shaw, Gemma Jones, and James McArdle – and has included lots of input from Kate and Saoirse, but there has been some discussion about the accuracy of the film’s love story.
Who were Anning and Murchison?
Anning was a fossil collector, dealer and paleontologist who became famed around the world for her findings in the cliffs along the English Channel at Lyme Regis.
Her work contributed hugely to changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth, including providing key pieces of evidence for extinction.
However, she faced major struggles as a result of being a woman (in a vastly male-dominated industry) and being born into a working class family.
She struggled with money throughout her life, was unable to join the Geological Society of London, and wasn’t even always fully credited for her work.
Following her death from breast cancer at the age of 47, her life story attracted interest and she’s been remembered as one of the most important people in the history of science.
Murchison was a geologist, who was married to fellow geologist Roderick Impey Murchison (played by James McArdle in the movie).
She was also known for her geological sketches, which often helped her husband to develop many of his publications.
The pair were known to travel around the world together, with Charlotte eventually dying of malaria on one of the trips at the age of 80.
Was their love story real?
In real life, the pair are thought to have met while Murchison was travelling with her husband, with the two going fossil hunting together, before coming close friends.
However, no one knows for sure whether the women were in love, or if they were just close friends.
Anning is known to have written some pretty intense letters to her female ‘friends’, most notably Frances Bell, with the correspondences being published after the pair’s deaths.
But, if she was gay, she likely wouldn’t have publicised it, considering it was illegal, and the death sentence wasn’t even removed until 1861.
Following the film’s announcement, there was also some controversy about portraying the pair’s romance, with The Telegraph quoting a distant relative of the palaeontologist, Barbara Anning, as saying: ‘I do not believe there is any evidence to back up portraying her as a gay woman.’
However, you can argue – and director Francis Lee did – that there’s no real evidence to suggest she was straight either.
He defended the storyline in a series of tweets, explaining: ‘After seeing queer history be routinely ‘straightened’ throughout culture, and given a historical figure where there is no evidence whatsoever of a heterosexual relationship, is it not permissible to view that person within another context?’
He added: ‘Would these newspaper writers have felt the need to whip up uninformed quotes from self-proclaimed experts if the character’s sexuality had been assumed to be heterosexual?’
Ammonite is released on October 16, 2020.
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Credit: Original article published here.