Updated: Jul 17, 2022
Projectionist's rating: 5/10
We gathered on New Year’s Day for our hybrid post film discussion on Francis Lee’s 2020 romantic drama, loosely inspired by the life of British palaeontologist Mary Anning. We were pleased to welcome Nigel, who had given such a fascinating talk on the local excavations and provided artefacts to handle.
Those in the group watching on Amazon Prime had a different experience from the audience who enjoyed the RCC big screen experience. They found the sound too intrusive, missed some dialogue and couldn’t read the written notes.
The film led to some strong opinions. One participant did not mince words. It was, she said, “absolute nonsense from beginning to end.” The film had imposed 21st century values onto the 19th century and had completely missed the real story of Mary Anning and her life of palaeontological research. Her father, who worked with her, was completely left out of the film, as was her faithful dog. There was no historical evidence of a gay relationship between Mary and Charlotte Murchison.
We reflected on the balance between entertainment and telling a true story. It seemed unlikely that the female protagonists would have made their way home from a soiree in the rain unaccompanied. The messages about male patriarchy at the time came over loud and clear. At points in the film they were hammered home, for example, when the camera dwelt on a male statue’s genitalia when Mary visits the British Museum and seems to be the only woman there.
We liked the costumes, the stunning stark Lyme Regis photography, the mise-en-scène and particularly Fiona Shaw’s performance. Kate Winslett’s detached style was interesting. The pie at the soiree also looked good, but let’s be honest, not as impressive as the ammonite sandy biscuits and chocolate fossil cake that our audience had earlier enjoyed.
Regarding the explicit love scenes, I overheard one member of the audience remark, with amusement, “To think we were watching that so close to Rusthall High Street!”