Ammonite

New York Times Critics' Pick
117 mins.
Directed by Francis Lee
R
2020

Sara Pruss, Esther Cloudman Dunn Professor at Smith College, joins us to introduce AMMONITE.

Science on Screen® presents creative pairings of current, classic, cult, and documentary films with lively introductions by notable figures from the world of science, technology, and medicine.


In the 1840s, acclaimed self-taught paleontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) works alone on the wild and brutal Southern English coastline of Lyme Regis. The days of her famed discoveries behind her, she now hunts for common fossils to sell to rich tourists to support herself and her ailing widowed mother.

When one such tourist, Roderick Murchison (James McArdle), arrives in Lyme on the first leg of a European tour, he entrusts Mary with the care of his young wife Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan), who is recuperating from a personal tragedy. Mary, whose life is a daily struggle on the poverty line, cannot afford to turn him down but, proud and relentlessly passionate about her work, she clashes with her unwanted guest. They are two women from utterly different worlds. Yet despite the chasm between their social spheres and personalities, Mary and Charlotte discover they can each offer what the other has been searching for: the realization that they are not alone.

It is the beginning of a passionate and all-consuming love affair that will defy all social bounds and alter the course of both lives irrevocably.


Topic: “Colossal Fossils: The trailblazing contributions of Mary Anning in the Heroic Age of Geology”

This film showcases life and love as a woman scientist (Mary Anning, played by Kate Winslet) and her companion (Saoirse Ronan) comb the cliffs of southern England looking for fossils and evidence of ancient life. Paleontologist Sara Pruss (Smith College) reviews some of the paleontological contributions of Mary Anning, and explores what aspects this film gets right and wrong about women paleontologists in early 1800s England. She also examines Mary’s historical place in the heroic age of geology.

Speaker: Sara Pruss, Esther Cloudman Dunn Professor, Smith College

After discovering a love for invertebrates and evolution as a child in Alaska, Sara Pruss graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in Biology-Geology. She earned masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Southern California, and pursued a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University before arriving at Smith College in 2007. Sara has supervised more than 70 Smith College undergraduate students in her research group and has been funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the American Chemical Society. In recognition for her success in research, she was awarded the Esther Cloudman Dunn professorship by Smith College in 2022. 


Science on Screen is an initiative of the Coolidge Corner Theatre with major support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

“AMMONITE is only the director Francis Lee’s second feature, yet already he’s developing a strong visual signature, at once eloquent and elemental. His smashing 2017 debut, GOD'S OWN COUNTRY, which followed the searing connection between a gay sheep farmer and a migrant worker, has clear parallels with the new film. Both focus on dampened souls set ablaze by unlikely passion; both unfold in harsh, punishing landscapes; both fiercely acknowledge gender and class; and both feature sudden blooms of panting, explicit eroticism.” Jeannette Catsoulis. A New York Times Critic's Pick!