Ammonite (2020) - full transcript

1840s England, acclaimed but overlooked fossil hunter Mary Anning and a young woman sent to convalesce by the sea develop an intense relationship, altering both of their lives forever


Thank you, gentlemen.
Gently, if you please.




Shouldn't you be out?

We could do with more shells.

Them little ammonites,
tourist tut.

And driftwood.

Before I catch my death.

What are you doing?


No, please,
don't let me disturb you.

- I am very content to watch you work.
- The shop's closed, sir.

It's wonderful, isn't it?

Cornu ammonis?


It's a broken one.

It's still a fine specimen.

Is there something
you wanted, sir?

Sorry. Please, let me introduce myself,
Miss Anning. Roderick Murchison.

I must confess
I'm a little in awe.

Your reputation is something
I've often heard discussed

in the Geographical Society
in London.

- All boys together.
- Yes, well...


But your insights,
your skills, are legendary

and I thought for my archaeological
tour of the Continent,

how could I miss the
opportunity to meet you?

And here you are.

At your work.

I was under the impression
that fine London gentlemen

were no longer interested
in my sea creature relics.

Fashion moved on, did it not?

Quite. I'm afraid
I'm a bit of a late starter.

And how could I
not want to meet

"the presiding deity of Lyme"?

It'd be customary for a
gentleman to write to me

to make an appointment
before arriving unannounced.

- Yes, unforgivable.
- Could you not fiddle with that?

Sorry. May I introduce my wife, Mrs.
Charlotte Murchison?

Sir, as you can see,
I don't excavate larger pieces any more.

I've seen that particular
relic in the British Museum.

A complete ichthyosaurus.
Am I correct?

And that's one of yours?

It's fascinating.

I would love to purchase this ammonite
from you, but I must be honest.

What I would dearly appreciate
is the opportunity

to spend some time working
with you on the shore,

seeing what you see.

I don't conduct
guided tours any more.

I'm not a tourist, Miss Anning,
I'm a scientist, like you.

A man of the new world and I'm
here to learn all I can from you.

And, of course, I am more than happy
to recompense you for your time.

And, obviously,
as it's an inconvenience to yourself,

I would be able to pay a
premium for a private audience.

As well as the purchase of
this fine ammonite, of course.

It's not easy work.

- Good.
- I can't promise we'll find anything.


- Very well.
- Splendid!

You've no idea what this means to me.

My friends
will be most envious.

- Do you have a quieter dining room?
- Yes, sir, but...

This music's a little
overwhelming for the situation.

- Couldn't we...
- Don't make a fuss.

- What is the soup?
- Hare.

I'll have the oysters.
Are they larded?

A la mode, sir.

Perfect. And the beef. Rare.

- Very good, sir.
- Braised celery, boiled potatoes.

Pouring cream for the potatoes.
Would you bring your wine list?

No, wait. Just bring me
a bottle of the claret.

We have
the '26 or '35.

The '35.

And my wife will have some plain
white fish. Baked. No sauce.

It's not the right time
to make another baby.

Miss Anning.

Miss Anning.

Sorry. Am I late?

- The old woman in your shop...
- My mother.

Of course.
I do beg your pardon.

Your mother said
I would find you here.

It was a bright morning,
and the tide was out. I couldn't wait.

Yes, of course.
I just didn't want to miss anything.

Well, you're here now.





- Calcite crystal.
- And this?

Look here.

There is
a little ammonite inside,

but that dimple
tells me it will be crushed.

You could chip it out,
but it won't be any good.

Oh, that's nice.

Coprolite. Very nice.

I'm not familiar
with this type.

If you look very carefully,

you can see tiny fish bones.

Those little black flecks...

they're scales.

That'll polish up very nice.

Thank you.

- But what is it?
- Fossilized feces.

- Pardon?
- Yes, Mr. Murchison.


The tide will be coming in soon.
We ought to be getting back.

Charlotte, look what I found
with Miss Anning.


- What are you doing?
- Taking you out of this stinking room.

- I don't want to.
- I'm afraid that's no longer a choice.

We can't continue like this, Charlotte.
You're like a shadow.

It simply won't do.

It's madness for me
to expect you

to be well enough
to accompany me abroad.

- It seems you need more time for your convalescence.
- Roddy...

Lyme appears to be
the perfect place for you.

This expedition is extensive.

You were prescribed rest.

- Sea bathing.
- I don't like the water.

Little stimulation.

I want my bright, funny,
clever wife back.

I don't want to be alone.

Is there something else?

My wife, Charlotte,

she hasn't been
at all well of late.

She suffers...

Well, it's
mild melancholia, perhaps.

The doctor prescribed
taking the sea air,

but it has been a little slow.

I have arranged for her
to stay on in Lyme,

and although I'm reassured that
she will be well cared for,

she would be alone.

I was thinking...
hoping, really,

what a wonderful opportunity
it would be for her

to walk out with you.

- Walk out?
- Yes.

Walk the shoreline with you.

- Learn from you.
- I'm not looking for an apprentice.

- No, of course not.
- I am in no position

to spend my days
caring for an invalid.

No, and...
it wouldn't require you to.

You showed me such courtesy
yesterday, sharing your knowledge,

and I was hoping that you might be able
to afford my wife the same generosity.

You'll help give her
an interest, as it were.

And it would only be for...
four weeks.

Perhaps five.

But no more than six.

Excuse me, Mrs. Murchison,
but Mr. Murchison instructed me

to help you dress
for your day out today.

I'm not going.

I'm very sorry,
Mrs. Murchison,

but Mr. Murchison
was most insistent

I get you up out of bed
and dressed immediately.

Please don't throw
anything else at me, miss.

What is it?

Something. Nothing.

Shouldn't you excavate it?

I mean,
isn't that what you do?

My husband said that's what
you're meant to show me.

Let me be clear.
I don't want you here.

Your husband paid me
to take you out with me.

Doesn't matter to me
if you wanna be here or not.

But please don't question or presume
to tell me how I conduct my business.

I came to get help with my illness.
To bathe and to walk.

- Not work like a navvy.
- Bathe?

Then may I suggest you rid me of your
bad company and go get better bathing.

- My husband...
- Your husband left you.

There looks to be fuck all
wrong with you to me.

That'll do, boy!


Mother! Fuck!


You're new.



Uh... yes.

There appears to be
a high fever.

Did she take a chill yesterday?

- Get wet in the rain, perhaps?
- I don't know.

Maybe she went bathing.

Oh, yes, water torture.

She'll need care.

- Night and day.
- I'm not a nurse, Doctor.

I barely know the woman.

Hmm. Um...


Miss Anning,

it is a woman's position to care
for a fellow sister, is it not?

Make sure you keep her warm,
but not too hot.

And cold compresses
should help relieve the fever.

I'll write to her husband
and send for her things.

And please do call for me
if her condition changes.

I'll bid you a good afternoon.

How long is she intending
on being in residence?

You should send her home...
to that London.

It's not our responsibility.

She might die, Mother.

How are we to survive
while you play lady's maid?

We'll manage.

If she is to be
accommodated in my home,

with constant care,
and you turfed out of your bed,

that husband of hers
needs to pay more!



I didn't...

I didn't see her...

in the ground.

It was cold.




I need to purchase
a jar of salve, please.


It's not your ma again?
Poor Molly. Is she worse?

Do you want to come in?

Just the salve.

You look well.

I like your hair longer.
It suits you.

I haven't seen you in church
for some time.

Well, I've had my work.

Mary, work on Sunday?
Will God forgive you?

You know you can
always ask me for help.

I don't think that'd be
such a good idea.

I came for the salve,
not a sermon.

I understand.

Keep your coins.
They're hard earned.


You sure you don't want
to come in?

Lightning Mary.

Plus ça change.



All very good.

Miss Anning,
I must commend you.

I did not expect
to see Mrs. Murchison

looking quite
as radiant as she does.

Really. Wonderful work.



A good pot of strong broth.

Keep using the salve,

gentle exercise and sea air.

Try not to excite yourself,
Mrs. Murchison.



I will call again.

Thank you, Miss Anning.

You're up.

I was thinking perhaps we might go
out onto the beach this morning.

Just take the air.

If you think I'm strong enough.

Do you think
you're strong enough?

I do, I think.


Can I help?

You could scrape these.

Maybe you could
get some coal.


That looks difficult.


Cheap tourist fodder.

Can I try?

Use this...

to stick them down.


You look tired.

I always look tired.

You look after me
like your child.

You don't have any?

What a lot of questions.

I might have preferred it
when you were unconscious.


No children.

I'm sorry.

For what?

My mother had ten.

I remember six of them dying.

And two before me.

Eight babies dead.

Each one taking something
of her when they went.

I have my work.

I didn't need children
as well.

You can't keep sleeping
in that chair.

You need your rest.
I've taken your bed for too long.

Did you want to go back
to the hotel?


Unless you want me to.


We should share the bed.

What are you doing?

- I wanted to help.
- They're mine.

My babies.

Something wrong?


Dr. Lieberson has come
to see you.

Oh, no. Sorry.

More a social visit.

My mission was to give this
to you, Miss Anning.

It's an invitation.

A musical evening.

I thought after all your work
with Mrs. Murchison,

you might like a little treat.

What about Mrs. Murchison?

I'm not sure I understand.

Well, Mrs. Murchison appreciates
music much more than I do.

Where's her invitation?

I would naturally be accompanied by Mrs.
Murchison in her own right.

- Do you not think?
- Yes.

I just thought given
Mrs. Murchison's condition,

this might prove
a little... overstimulating.


As her doctor, I would
strongly advise against it.

And as her friend, I disagree.

Dr. Lieberson, I will
happily attend your recital.

But with Mrs. Murchison.

So be it. Excellent.

I will see you both
this evening, then.



Excuse me.

Miss Anning.

So sorry for neglecting you.

Let me introduce you
to some people.

I just need to...

Where's the...

Oh, of course.
It's right through the back.

After you.

Ladies, gentlemen, new friends.

Please do take your seats
as we are about to begin.

Do sit here.

This is marvelous.

You left me.

What are you writing?

May I see?

Please, don't be silly.

Let me see.


"Is it that I am all alone?

Yet in my dreams,
a form I view

That thinks on me
and loves me, too.

I start,
and when the vision's flown,

I weep and I am all alone."

You were the most fascinating
person there tonight.

And I think
the most beautiful.

Mary, look what's fallen down.

It's the rock thing.

It's too big.

Impossible to move.

You're wasting your time.

What is it?

See here? This is a row
of small vertebrae.

And these flatter sides are where
the ribs would have been attached.

But these ones have
a certain shape,

which tells me they would
have been near the skull.

And that's good?

It would be very good, yes.

That one was special.

I was only 11 years old.

Days it took to dig it out,
clean it.

I'd like to see it.

It's in The British Museum

with its fancy made-up name.

We couldn't keep it. It was a year's
worth of food, rent and clothing.

That's such a poor drawing.

A child's hand.

I like it.

I'm pleased my rock
was worth the work.

You found the head.


We can go tomorrow
to find the rest of it.


I should help.

- Go to bed.
- Won't that wait till the morning?

Father would turn in his grave if he thought
I'd gone to bed without cleaning his tools.

Good night.

Good morning.

- Say it again.
- Hmm.


There was a young woman
named Sally

Who loved
the occasional dally

She sat on the lap
Of a well-endowed chap

And she said, "Ooh,
you're right up my alley."

It was something
like a sea lizard with fins.

- It was probably six feet long.
- Goodness.

It's one of the best
I've found in a long time.

It will
require some thought.


What price would you
suggest then, sir?

I'm not in the market
for haggling.

It's a stunning example,
isn't it?

In my humble opinion, the physical
effort Miss Anning goes through

to procure such a specimen would make
the price tag seem quite reasonable.

Then there is the painstaking
hours spent working on the specimen

to reveal it
in all its beauty.

- Charlotte...
- On top of this sheer hard work,

let us not forget the
knowledge and years of skill

Miss Anning brings
to her tasks.

Without this,
and to the untrained or ill-formed eye,

these would simply be un-investigated
lumps of stone and rock.

Why do you think
the scientific community

places such importance
on this work?

Miss Anning informs us not only
of our past, but of our present.

With all this in mind,
how would you put a price on this, sir?

I see.

Sit down, Mrs. Anning.
It's mushrooms for supper.


Sit down. There's plenty.

The shop won't run itself.

Close it, then.

Oh, I almost forgot.

Correspondence came for you,
Mrs. Murchison.

Thank you.


It's warm.

Last year at this time we had
snow, and now it's nice.

I had to start
the babies on my own.

I think I might go to my bed.

What are you doing?

Pricing up this thing.

We're closed.

It's me, Mary.
Can I come in?

I'm so sorry, Mary.

Molly was...

a perspicacious woman.

Her strength to carry on after
your father died was admirable.

Tell me, have you been
in correspondence

with your Mrs. Murchison

She's clever.

And funny.

I very much
enjoyed her company.

It pleases me you've struck up
a friendship together.

I know I hurt you terribly,
and I'm deeply sorry for that.

I just wasn't sure
I could live up to you.

Or your expectations of me.

A small side step
could curtail it completely.

I wasn't the enemy,
but it often felt like I was.

I tried.


I don't think you did.

Not really.

You seemed to do everything
you could to be distant.

Eventually, I just...

stopped trying.

It seems your Mrs. Murchison
has been able to...

unlock something in you
that I couldn't.

Tradesmen's entrance is around the side.
Go all the way back.

I'm here as a guest
of Mrs. Charlotte Murchison.

Miss Anning?


I beg your pardon, miss.
Please, do come this way.

Please wait here, miss.

Thank you.

That's just the maid.

Thank you, Anne.
That will be all.

Oh, Mary! My Mary!

I can't believe you're here.
How was the journey?

I wish you would have let me
send a carriage.

It feels
a very long way from Lyme.

Oh. I had it all planned out.

We'd have tea,
and then I'd show you,

but I just don't think I can
wait any longer. Come on!

Close your eyes. You must close your
eyes or it will ruin everything.

I don't think I like surprises.

You can open them.

It's yours.

- Mine?
- Yes.

To stay the night?

Well, yes, but no.

Also yours to move into.

To live here with me.

Here, I thought you could put
your mother's figurines.

And here you can write
your journal.

Such a good light, isn't it?

- But I have my home.
- And in here...

They're for you.
I had them made just for you.

Feel this one.

Oh, and one last thing.

My room. So we'll be next
to each other, always.

- You've thought of everything.
- I hope so.

I didn't want you
to worry about anything.

Well, say something.

- Sorry. I really shouldn't...
- Mary.

I wanted to see my relic in the
British Museum today, so I should...

We'll see it later
once we've settled you in.

I feel...
I feel I'm at a great disadvantage.


I feel I've been misled.

- I don't think I have...
- I was invited for a visit.

And now it seems I've been
hoodwinked in some way.


Why did you not mention
all this in your letter?

I wanted to see
the look on your face.

You presumed I'd be fitted
into your life, here,

like one of my relics
in your fine glass case.

- No, of course not.
- Will you label me, too?

No, that's not what I want.
That's not what I intended.

I want this to be different.

Our different.

This must make
your husband very happy.

- Who cares?
- Oh, please don't make fun of me.

Roddy is content with his life.
Very content.

And because of you, he now has a proper
interest that takes up most of his time.

You make it sound so neat,
like I planned it.

Of course not.

why are you doing this?

I don't want to go back
to the life I had before you.

What about my life, Charlotte?
My work?

I can't bear to think of you suffering
out on those beaches in all weathers.

And now you'll be free
to do your important work,

your scientific work.

You don't understand me.


Your proposition makes me feel like
some fancy bird in a gilded cage.

I need to find lodgings
for tonight.

I wish you'd told me before.

I could have saved
the boat fare.

Mary... Mary!