Makes one long for the days of hats.
Set in the 1950’s, a shy shop assistant, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) begins an intense friendship with a woman named Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), after being of her assistance over the counter during the Christmas sales at a department store. Both women however, are confined to their heterosexual roles. An unpleasant battle between Carol and her estranged husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) is brought to light.
What’s not to love here? From the outstanding performances, the lavish sets and costume design, period precise mannerisms, to the subtlety of emotions conveyed. The film expresses how easily one can fall for another regardless of who they are, or their gender, and is completely resistant to the use of labels. It also carefully highlights the social attitudes to sexuality of the time without particularly giving in to them. Carol is about longing and regret, refined through an edging sense of unease. It is a surprisingly cold film.
But what turns this from a great period drama into a masterpiece is Blanchett and Mara’s spectacular performances. Through subtle looks, longing glances and body language alone, Blanchett certainly hits all the right notes when it comes to her allure. Mara picked up a few brownie points along the way; her willingness to go topless for the occasion. She is utterly believable as a woman beginning to explore her sexuality, especially captured in her line: “A friend of mine told me I should be more interested in humans.” The film could have easily slipped under the ‘style over substance’ issue that a good handful of period dramas have this past year. But with Todd Haynes’s artful direction, long close-ups and a sweeping score, this wasn’t the case. The visuals are simply painted rather than constructed.
Carol is a seductive, dazzling addition to the romance genre, which is worth a watch for the enigmatic performance of Blanchett alone. A enchanting achievement, you are simply won over in minutes. Each and every aspect is so delicately handled by Haynes. One of the most satisfyingly heart-wrenching romances in years.