Acclaimed yet unrecognized 19th century self-taught paleontologist and fossil collector Mary Anning (Winslet) lives on the southern coast of England in Lyme Regis (near what is now known as the 'Jurassic Coast') working alone collecting and selling common fossils to tourists in order to support herself and her elderly mother, but a chance job offer changes her life when an upper class couple arrive from London, when the husband asks Mary to care for his grieving wife Charlotte (Ronan) and to show her how she collects fossils the two begin to develop feelings for each other and form a romantic relationship.
- Age-Gap Romance:
- Mary appears to be significantly older than Charlotte (Winslet was forty-five at the time of the film, while Ronan was twenty-six).
- Mary is also revealed to have had an ill-fated previous relationship with Elizabeth Philpot, who is twenty years her senior.
- Artistic License History: Mary and Charlotte have a romance. In reality, there's no evidence Mary and Charlotte were anything but close friends. Further, Mary's portrayed as much older than her (to match the actress's ages). Charlotte was actually a decade older than Mary.
- Coitus Ensues: Mary and Charlotte have a lengthy sex scene.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Mary is quite the grump until Charlotte comes into her life (and stays there for a while - it's almost an hour into the runtime of the movie that Charlotte first coaxes a smile out of her).Elizabeth: It seems your Mrs. Murchinson has unlocked something in you that I couldn't.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: After Mary and Charlotte spend the night in bed together for the first time, Mary is seen the next morning furiously polishing a mirror.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: While we never see any living dinosaurs stomp across the British shoreline à la Jurassic Park, any paleontology enthusiasts will still find the fossils of the prehistoric marine reptiles in the film fascinating.
- Limerick: Mary recites one of the Bawdy Song variety for Charlotte's amusement:Charlotte: Say it again. Please?Mary: 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!"
- Queer Romance: Mary and Charlotte fall in love, having a clandestine affair.
- Period Piece: The film is set in 1840s England.