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Told with delicacy by director Todd Haynes and with exquisite performances from its two leads, Carol is a beautiful technical achievement and a wonderfully told love story.
Carol takes place in the early 1950s and tells the story of Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), a shopgirl in Manhattan who meets Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), an older woman who is at the shop to purchase a model train set for her daughter. Carol accidentally leaves her gloves on the counter, and Therese returns them. As a token of appreciation, Carol takes Therese out to eat. It is clear there is passion between these two. However, the new blossoming romance is facing troubles.
Carol’s husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) is threatening to take their daughter away from her when he catches wind of their tryst, especially since Carol has had relations with another woman (Sarah Paulson). Threse’s boyfriend (Jake Lacy) unravels as he watches the love of his life slowly walk away. These obstacles test Carol and Therese as they come to terms with their feelings for each other.
It is a drama about two women who fall in love with each other, but what the film succeeds in doing is not driving home the point that it is two women. Seeing these two human beings come together feels so natural. This is a love story that transcends the screen and bears its soul to the audience.
At the center of this romance is Blanchett and Mara, both of whom are exquisitely cast and working in perfect unison with each other. Blanchett is the most confident out of the two, but she meets her match in Mara. The passion on the screen between these two actresses is soul stirring. When these characters finally find their moment of passion, it feels perfect.
Blanchett and Mara are also given wonderful supporting players to work off of. Chandler is a sympathetic figure because he is angry at Carol because she is having an affair. He believes that the only bad thing coming out of this situation is a sense of trust being broken. It is easy to make a character like this beyond unlikable, but Chandler’s interpretation humanizes him. Paulson is a great center in the midst of this larger-than-life drama.
Haynes never takes this story and puts it over the moon. The grounded nature he approached the subject matter with makes the story at its center seem more plausible. A lot of this down-to-earth story telling is helped by Phyllis Nagy’s deft script. The subdued color palette created with the cinematography by Edward Lachman paints a vivid portrait that emphasizes emotion over beauty. Emotions are enhanced by Carter Burwell’s delicate score. There is so much blistering passion on the screen from everyone involved that is cannot help but be contagious.
This is a film where everything works. Carol is my favorite film of 2015.
Carol is rated R for a scene of sexuality/nudity and brief language and runs for 1 hour and 58 minutes.