“Ammonite,” director Francis Lee’s followup to his 2017 groundbreaking gay love story “God’s Own Country,” would’ve premiered at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival had it gone on as planned. The entire lineup of official selections was revealed by the festival earlier this week, with the period lesbian romance starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan among the titles. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Lee calls the film a story about the “the power of love; the power of a deep, intimate, human relationship; the power of touch; and hope.” Those all sound like things we need right now, except probably not touch.
Lee said he managed to finish the film, which is inspired by the life of fossil-hunting paleontologist Mary Anning, just before lockdown. Set in the 1840s, Lee said the film is “not a biopic. It’s just inspired by her life. I was incredibly lucky to work with Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, and they play two women who develop an intense and intimate relationship.” Ronan plays a younger socialite who comes into Anning’s orbit.
“I was very drawn to that period because of this wonderful research into same-sex female relationships of the period that are all very well documented with letters to each other, demonstrating wonderful, life-long, passionate, intense, emotional relationships,” Lee said. “And I was fascinated to set this film in a period that was totally patriarchal and where women were completely owned by their fathers or their husbands, and looking at how they live within that world, and also in a world where, at that time, the medical profession believed that women had no sexual-pleasure organs. So, the idea of two women actually in a relationship together was just not a thought anybody ever had within society.”
Without an in-person Cannes, “Ammonite” now has to enter the very crowded fall festival circuit — whatever shape it takes — where it will be up against a backlog of festival premieres stymied by quarantine. The film could show up in Telluride, which at this stage is still planning to take place over Labor Day weekend.
Francis Lee recently made headlines when it was discovered that “God’s Own Country” distributor Samuel Goldwyn Films uploaded a censored version of the movie — which features gay sex scenes — onto Amazon Prime. “God’s Own Country” star Alec Secareanu also appears in “Ammonite,” alongside Fiona Shaw, Gemma Jones, and James McArdle.
Though “Ammonite” has yet to be dated for a U.S. release, “Parasite” distributor Neon is handling the film.