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Head to head movie reviews: Ammonite vs. The Climb

Gazette film critic gives head-to-head reviews over two new releases: Ammonite and The Climb.



Stars: 3.5

Starring Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Jones, James McArdle, Alec Sec─âreanu, and Fiona Shaw 

Written and directed by Francis Lee

Rated: 14A for coarse language, nudity, sexual content, and substance use

Runtime: 117 minutes

Now playing at Cineplex Odeon South Edmonton Cinemas


The Climb

Stars: 4.0

Starring Michael Angelo Covino, Kyle Marvin, and Gayle Rankin

Written by Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin

Directed by Michael Angelo Covino

Rated: 14A for coarse language, sexual content, violence, and substance use

Runtime: 98 minutes

Now playing at Scotiabank Theatre 

I've heard about bromances but it feels like the word 'femance' has yet to make the scene. I'll use it here as it seems apt as I compare notes on two new releases: The Climb and Ammonite. The former follows two men over a decade of their close friendship while the latter takes a good long look at two women – one older, one younger – as they move from strangers to lovers. Two very different takes on two very different yet still very intimate relationships between members of the same sex.

The Climb has a cycling theme as Mike (writer/director/star Michael Angelo Covino) is the competitive type while Kyle (Kyle Marvin) is much less so but friends still bike up mountains with friends, don't they? Surely they do, but when one reveals a painful truth to the other, it all could so easily go downhill from there.

The story is told in chapters that jump from major periods in the two characters' lives in such a way that it takes the viewer a step or two to catch up to what's happened in order to fill in the blanks. In this respect and in a few others, I was very much reminded of Mike Nichols' 2004 film Closer from Patrick Marber's script. The Climb is effective in many ways in the honesty and vulnerability of the two main characters. The character arcs are also very well done as we see them go through the highest highs and lowest lows of a relationship that remains firm throughout. Well done, indeed. Also impressive is the directing from first-timer Covino, who even managed to pull off some tricky long takes on bikes no less. It also has some comical aspects to otherwise tragic moments that would probably be considered tricky to pull off as well.

That's probably why the film won the Un Certain Regard’s Jury Coup de Coeur (AKA the Heart Prize) at last year's Cannes Film Festival. 

Compare and contrast that with Ammonite, the new work from Francis Lee, he of God's Own Country. He's got a pretty firm grasp of what it takes to be British and repressed, so this tale is right up his alley. Fossil hunter Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) is tasked with caring for Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan), a young depressed and despondent woman who needs a spa-cation and instead her husband takes her to the miserable coast of England. Ronan's Charlotte certainly needs more than just a good friend and a bit of a kick in the pants. Winslet's Mary needs something in her life too. She's become a shut-in, caring for her elderly mother and making do by selling common fossils to tourists. It seems like they both needed each other to come along, and they both do. There's something about the 'stiff upper lipped' British discovering their passion for anything, especially someone else, that always serves as a strong reminder to always feel alive if you can.

The only problem with that is that it feels like this plot has been done so many times before. It has. 

Of course, The Climb has been done before too; it rings a bell of an early Kevin Costner film called American Flyers, which was about two cycling brothers. It feels fresher, however, as it was done by a relative newcomer and seems so strong out of the gate. For that, it earns the edge over Ammonite for this head-to-head review. 

Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.
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