Francis Lee grew up on a farm in West Yorkshire, studied acting, landed a few television and movie roles, and when his day job at a scrapyard allowed it, shot a few short films. In 2017, his first feature, God’s Own Country, a gay love story about a British sheep farmer and a Romanian migrant worker, premiered at Sundance and spent the rest of the year collecting awards from festival juries and critics’ groups. Ammonite, his follow-up, was to have premiered in Cannes before heading to Telluride, but after both of those festivals were cancelled, the film has finally screened in Toronto and will close next month’s festival in London.
Richard Lawson offers a dissenting opinion in Vanity Fair. He finds Ammonite “grim, spare, and so carefully sapped of vim it can barely breathe.” God’s Own Country, he writes, “was also aloof at times, colored in a similar gray palette and guarded with its emotions. But there were true, glorious blooms of sentiment (and conversation!) in that movie too, brilliantly offsetting—and complementing—the brittle, wintry stuff. Those big moments arrive in Ammonite as well, but they’re too little too late, serving only as a glum reminder of what the entirety of the film could have been—and what its two terrific lead actors could have done—had Lee not turned the flame all the way down.”