When the trailer for Ammonite arrived on the internet, I wrote about it and how I was tired and how I just wasn’t that excited about the film. (You can read it right here.) There was never a question of whether or not I was going to watch it. I crave LGBTQ+ content and seek it out all the time. I just didn’t expect to be blown away or even remotely interested in the film. Ammonite just seemed to be a film that I had seen a thousand times before. A story of two women falling in love back before electricity existed with good acting but so predictable that I could have told you the story before I even started it. And truth be told, I was right. I even texted a friend right before I started the film with what I thought would happen and I was about 90% right. The truth is, Ammonite is fine, Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet are good in it and will be in the conversation during award season (I don’t think they will crack the nominations but they will be in the conversation), but it is predictable, long, boring and quite frankly we have seen this lesbian love story done over and over again.
Maybe it’s because a year after getting what was one of the most beautiful love stories told with Portrait of a Lady on Fire or because we got so much good LGBT+ content this year that seemed to raise the bar in terms of what we deserved, Ammonite felt dated, like a film we would have gotten 10 years ago and would have been content with. But the thing is, I am done being content with LGBTQ+ content, I deserve to be satisfied, I deserve my cute lesbian rom-com, I deserve my princess story where she falls in love with a knight who happens to be a woman, I deserve a family movie where the two parents are moms. I am done settling for films that are just passable with good acting and settle for it, we have moved past it and Ammonite just got caught in those feelings.
Ammonite will satisfy a certain audience I am sure, every film has one. The thing is that Ammonite never feels original. It follows tropes that we have seen so many times and never feels surprising, the only time that I was remotely surprised was during the end of the film but even then, that surprise made no sense. My main problem with Ammonite isn’t that it’s a film that I have seen so many times before, it’s that it feels rushed and I never believe in the relationship. This is a film that relies entirely on the relationship between Kate Winslet’s Mary and Saoirse Ronan’s Charlotte. And yet, the relationship never feels like one, one moment they are barely talking to one another and then two scenes later they are having sex. I just never felt the built of the relationship, the payoff is never satisfying, it felt like nothing when they were together, I never believed that they loved each other. The film wants me to believe that they do, but I just didn’t. Yes, the leads have chemistry but that isn’t enough, they need to have a story behind them and they just don’t.
Last year, Portrait of a Lady on Fire became one of my favourite films ever. It’s clear that Ammonite tries so hard to be that film. It just never can, while the first was a beautiful love story that was built up told through the female gaze with beautiful vibrant colours, Ammonite is the exact opposite. I hate to compare the two, I hate comparing films but it is impossible for me not to. Ammonite is boring to look at, dark and moody the whole time, it never feels fresh or even trying to be fresh. This film is boring to look at, so many times when I watch a film or a television show, I will catch my breath and mumble an “Oh My God, look at this shot”. It’s something that I look forward to, good cinematography is at the top of what I look into a film with a good story and good acting. But Ammonite just cuts from scene to scene that all look the same, with some establishing shots that just don’t work and take time away from the story. It’s boring, it’s dull to look at and it shouldn’t be. I get that it tries to be realistic with the setting but does that mean it has to be so dark and moody? No, we have seen films before be able to create stories in a creative and exciting way. Ammonite just never does that.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire wasn’t the first film set in the past about to woman falling in love but it felt new and a story that I had never seen. Ammonite, I have seen before. The story of a broken woman sent to live with another woman, often older, who is distant and cold, but with time they fall in love but one day the husband comes back and the younger woman must put her love behind and go back to what is right. I have seen this movie countless times and I am tired of it, I don’t need to see it again. It doesn’t matter if your film is well-acted and delivers good performances if it is unoriginal and just redoes what has been done before. I am done settling for less then what I think I deserve in terms of queer cinema.
I want more queer cinema but I also want to start holding the films to a certain standard. For so long, I have settled for mediocre film and watched them over and over again because I felt the need to in order to have some representation, to see myself on the screen. But I don’t think I have it in me anymore. Queer cinema shouldn’t always be set in the past, shouldn’t always be about cheating, shouldn’t always be about being hurt or discovering yourself. It should be about happiness, about friendships, about the epic love story. Ammonite is none of that, it’s a film that tries to be everything that we have seen before, everything that we have settled for before and I can’t settle for that anymore. It’s a shame because it has potential but it just never becomes anything that I like or love. It exists and it will satisfy some people, I am just not one of them.