'God's Own Country' Director Opens Up About Upcoming Lesbian Drama 'Ammonite'

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday June 5, 2020

British director Francis Lee — whose 2017 debut feature, "God's Own Country," won instant acclaim and comparisons to gay classics like "Weekend" and "Brokeback Mountain" — completed his followup feature, "Ammonite," just before the COVID-19 crisis shuttered Hollywood, delaying many films and causing major disruption to release schedules.

Now the new film has been elected for Cannes, and Lee has spoken up about the new feature in an interview conducted via Zoom, reports Entertainment Weekly. "Ammonite" stars Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet as two women in love in the mid-19th century.

Winslet plays Mary Anning, a historical figure who was a pioneering paleontologist.

Lee told Entertainment Weekly that the story was not intended to be biographical. "It's just inspired by her life," Lee said. "I was incredibly lucky to work with Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, and they play two women who develop an intense and intimate relationship."

Lee explained that he "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," especially taking place as they did at a time when "women were completely owned by their fathers or their husbands" — a context in which, Lee said, "the idea of two women actually in a relationship together was just not a thought anybody ever had within society."

Lee recently took exception to reports that "God's Own Country" had been sliced into by the censor's shears, with two sex scenes between the male protagonists excised.

What later became clear was that while the sex scenes had been expurgated, it was the film's distributor that did the cutting and not Amazon Prime, as Lee initially believed. Amazon Prime did offer the censored version as a free version of the film, while retaining the clipped scenes on the version of the film that required payment in order to view.

Lee subsequently walked back his initial complaints, which were made on Twitter, and focused his anger on the distributor of that film.

Tweeted Lee:

The rental version of God's Own Country on @PrimeVideo is the correct version of my film. I would like to thank Amazon Prime for being supportive and I would caution any filmmaker of working with the aforementioned 'distributor'. Thank you EVERYONE for all your support

"Ammonite" itself sparked a bit of controversy when an article in The New York Independent wondered why a film about two lesbians in 19th century England were both played by straight actors.

"Hello? What about Kristen Stewart?" the article asked. "Stewart has openly announced she's sexually fluid, but has been dating women exclusively. She's also started playing mostly lesbian roles."

The article went on to say that "Dozens of other actresses have also come out as gay and many are being excluded from romantic lead heterosexual roles because of marketing problems based on their sexuality."

The New York Independent also noted that Mary Anning "is credited with making key scientific discoveries in the Jurassic marine fossil beds in the Channel at Lyme Regis in the county of Dorset in Southwest England."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Comments on Facebook