Carol: Film Review
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson
Director: Tood Haynes
Based on The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, the prestige practically drips from the screen in Carol.
Blanchett plays Carol Aird, who meets Rooney Mara's shop assistant Therese Belivet when out shopping for Christmas in 1952 New York. When Carol accidentally leaves her gloves on a counter, Therese returns them and the pair strike up a deep friendship.
But Carol's undergoing a difficult and messy separation from her husband Harge (Friday Night Lights star Kyle Chandler) after a tryst discovered between Carol and her friend Abby (American Horror Story star Sarah Paulson). The enmity between Harge and Carol boils over when the friendship with Therese is uncovered and soon the pair's lives are changed forever.
Swathed in large clumps of elegance and beautiful costumes, Carol is a love story that's richly orchestrated on to the screen and subtly portrayed by its two leads.
Mara does meek well as Therese, a woman whose world appears to be mapped out but whose desires and dreams are thwarted in parts. So when she meets with Cate Blanchett's Carol, Mara uses subtlety to bring her to life, slowly blossoming on the screen from her earlier appearances where she seems lost in her world and unsure of her ultimate destination.
Equally, Blanchett, draped in the finest haute couture of the time and slathered in femme fatale gear, brings a softness and a sadness to a woman trapped in a downward spiralling situation. It's the inflections in her voice and the subtle movements on her face that convey more than words can and get to the heart of this story.
Haynes also deserves praise for the execution of Carol; its lack of overtness, its framing of parts of its leads rather than all of them at key moments may seem to be perverse, but makes for a stylish experience, which is already rightly picking up awards buzz. The film is not in a rush to get where it needs to, and at times, luxuriates in the journey; but it's highly effective because one shocking moment in the middle of the film lands with resonance though in hindsight is painfully obvious.
Carol is a film that commands your attention from start to finish - thanks to its leads above all; from its polished veneer, its sumptuous costuming and its pacing, it's a film to languish in - even if it's hard to fully grab on to emotionally in parts and seems occasionally aloof.
At its heart, Carol is a love story that's rich in resonance and high in subtlety. It's already an awards darling and it's hard to not see that continuing as it weaves its mesmerising spell over audiences in 2016.