“I start, and when the vision’s flown, I weep and I am all alone.”
Although renowned in the early 19th Century, fossil hunter Mary Anning does not receive the celebration she deserves. Ammonite addresses this, but focuses on her later life through the lens of an entirely speculative relationship. Whilst this feels strange for a real figure, the film uses her character to present an excellent portrayal of repression, isolation and desire. Kate Winslet has shown her preference for naturalistic roles over the glamorous, and that is immediately evident as Anning claws through mud on the grey beaches of Lyme Regis. This contrasts with the high society convalescing young wife played delicately by Saoirse Ronan, impulsive and naïve. When the women’s interest in one another becomes physical, there is a palpable sense of desperation to escape the isolation of their respective lives. Indeed, the most heartbreaking moments of Ammonite come not when Anning is denied happiness, but when we see her own repression pushes her to choose isolation — focusing on her work and spending her time by the sea, the white noise of the waves drowning out the part of her life she knows she is denying.
“I lost track somewhere — what was real, what was performance.”
Jackie is an unusual biopic that seeks to present the woman through a narrow period of just a few weeks, focused almost exclusively on the assassination of JFK and the immediate aftermath, with occasional flashbacks going only so far as her time in the White House. Those hoping for a broader look at her life will be disappointed. Given the private nature of most scenes, it is evident that most of the script is highly speculative which makes it all the stranger that Jackie often struggles to delve beneath its subject’s iconic surface, with emotional resonance coming mostly from Peter Sarsgaard’s portrayal of the supportive, grieving Bobby Kennedy. The film does pose incisive questions about Jackie’s motivations following the assassination: a kind perspective is that she was preserving JFK’s legacy but a less generous one is that, as a student of history, she was seeking to craft that legacy for her husband and for herself. If nothing else she had certainly become a Kennedy.
“Shame isn’t a strong enough emotion to stop us from doing anything at all. Believe me.”
Although sold as a thriller about a woman seeking revenge on her rapist, this is actually a much broader film about an older woman’s sexuality, how she uses it and how it affects her interpersonal relationships. As an offbeat thriller it is refreshingly unpredictable and suspenseful, but the film relies upon Isabelle Huppert, whose performance is enthralling throughout.