'Ammonite': The Ending of the Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan Movie Explained

Ammonite stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan in a passionate romance based on historical characters. The movie premiered at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. After playing many more film festivals, Ammonite opened in theaters Nov. 13 and on VOD Dec. 4. Now the film is available on all home video format, including Blu-ray and DVD, allowing the most people possible to see it. 

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for the ending of Ammonite.]

Now that more people have a chance to watch Ammonite, they may be wondering about the ending. Here’s an explanation of where the film leaves Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet’s characters.

Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet in ‘Ammonite’

Winslet plays Mary Anning, a fossiler in the 1840s. She discovers a lot of ammonite fossils. Ammonite is a mineral, but it may also be a metaphor for Mary, the tough, independent geologist. 

Roderick Murchison (James McArdle) brings his wife, Charlotte (Ronan) to rest in the English seaside where Mary is digging up ammonite. The couple had lost a child and Charlotte needed rest to recover from her weakened condition. While Roderick is away, Charlotte joines Mary in her fossiling.

As Mary and Charlotte grow closer, they begin a passionate affair. The film depicts both their intimate love scenes and their emotional bond. 

How ‘Ammonite’ ends

When Charlotte returns home, she writes to Mary. Eventually, Mary comes to the city for a visit. Charlotte has prepared a guest room in her lavish house, and expects Mary to come live with her. This is a bit too much too fast for Mary. Mary expects to return to her life of fossiling and worries Charlotte expects her to be a kept woman. 

It appears Charlotte’s motivations were sincere. She really just wanted Mary to be close so they could continue their relationship, forbidden by British society at the time. However, she probably should have discussed it with Mary instead of springing it on her. 

In the end, Mary goes to the museum to visit her piece on display. Charlotte shows up and they look at each other through the display glass. That’s the final shot of the movie. 

What it means for Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan’s characters

Ammonite clearly intends to leave the future of Mary and Charlotte’s relationship ambiguous for the audience. You could see the ending as Charlotte coming to apologize and smooth things over with Mary, so they can reconnect and continue their relationship. Or, you could see it as Mary accepting that there’s no place for her in Charlotte’s life, and saying a bittersweet goodbye.

The actual history of Anning and Murchison doesn’t provide any closure either. Historians debate whether or not they actually had a romantic relationship, as they didn’t exactly leave behind documentation of the extent of their friendship. The Guardian reported the Anning family disputing claims of their relationship, while Ammonite writer/director Francis Lee tweeted that we shouldn’t assume they weren’t romantic either. 

“After seeing queer history be routinely ‘straightened’ throughout culture, and given a historical figure where there is no evidence whatsoever of a heterosexual relationship, is it not permissible to view that person within another context?” Lee tweeted. “Particularly a woman whose work and life were subjected to the worst aspects of patriarchy, class discrimination and gender imbalance…”

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