Release Date: September 11, 2020
Director: Francis Lee
Production Company: BBC Films | British Film Institute | See-Saw Films
This film is based on the real life of Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) who was an underappreciated pioneer of paleontology who found and studied fossils along the coast of the English Channel at Lyme Regis. The film begins with Anning reluctantly guiding a geology enthusiast, Roderick Murchison (James McArdle) on one of her collecting trips on the shore. Accompanying Murchison is his wife Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan) who is suffering severe depression. Roderick arranges for Charlotte to remain in Lyme Regis for convalescence and pays Mary Anning to take Charlotte on her trips to the shore.
The better part of the movie is Mary and Charlotte slowly lowering their defenses, becoming friends, and then beginning a romance. I thought with the stellar lead actors and the true life story of Anning’s contributions to science that this would be an interesting film. Winslet and Ronan do their best, but the whole movie has a paint-by-numbers approach full of well-worn tropes of period dramas and lesbian romance. We certainly don’t learn much about the real Mary Anning and Charlotte Murchison, which is a shame, because even their short Wikipedia entries detail fascinating lives.
I’m not sure if this is a noble failure or if Francis Lee just totally missed the point, but what we end up here is a pretty, but hollow, film.