Carol (2015) – Review

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Review: One doesn’t need to be a movie snob or a savant to love Todd Haynes’ Carol. No need to either be a fan of period dramas or LGBT cinemas to take a full grasp of beauty Carol offers.

Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel (originally titled “The Price of Salt’) by Phillys Nagy, Carol takes a subtle way to transliterate its substance—an unconventional love between two women against the 50s scene—into a digestible romance. Fueled by Haynes’ exquisite directing and both main actresses’ idyllic performances, Carol effortlessly ascends as the romance of 2015

Carol, which sets during a wintry period around Christmas and New Year of the 50s, centers on the relationship between a shy toy shopkeeper who gets devotion to photography, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), and an older socialite, Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), who is in the middle of divorce. Ignited by a ‘glove accident’, love blossoms immediately between both women. Therese takes it more spontaneously as it promptly consumes her; meanwhile, a more experienced Carol takes it more baffling as if she’d like to lead them somewhere.

Director Haynes doesn’t present Carol as an infatuated kind of romance. It’s not a mercurial and passionate tale of two people crazed to each other; it takes time to fathom into characters’ depth and establish bond between them, which I must say is incredible. Carol takes what is needed to provide as many essential details as possible about each character.

In doing so, both main actresses Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara truly emanate a larger-than-life performance to bring their character alive. Blanchett comfortably and effortlessly presents her most ethereal charisma in portraying a woman who struggles for custody when her marriage is on the verge of extinction; at the same time, she can still signify a completely different agenda with her ‘deviant’ lover. Meanwhile, a more plain Mara convincingly portrays young Therese who copes up with her self-doubt about what she really wants and how the significance of it to her relationship with Carol. Although their relationship is not an explosive and expressive one; although most of their time are spent on a journey; those eyes cannot hide attraction to each other, and both actresses just have those look—without even trying. Such an award-winning performance ready to get awarded.

Details are not only within characters; Haynes with his penchant to mise-en-scene builds a lot of enticing sets with attention to details, which juxtapose with elegant taste of fashion and soft color palette to dominate major aspect of cinematography. Haynes doesn’t only bring the period of time back, but he’s rebuilding the 50s along with the winter weather along with the atmosphere.

What Todd Haynes does is not merely recreating the 50s stereotypes of LGBT relationship virtually; it’s not just a re-enactment of what should’ve been done during that era. While same-sex relationship is still considered taboo in particular culture nowadays, it’s been “a people’s threat” back then and the nudge to the underground scene of LGBT in Carol is more than just subtext to enrich story-telling; instead, a chained factor that Haynes brings to life.

In the end, it’s Haynes’ perfect sense of historical detail and his exquisite directing compile everything together under a furry coat. Heightened by dying-to-see performances from Blanchett and Mara as well as strong secondary character: note Sarah Paulson as Carol’s former lesbian lover and Kyle Chandler as Carol’s grudging, conservative husband, Carol is definitely the romance of the year—which gets a big chance to be film of the year, as well.

Carol (2015)

Drama, Romance Directed by: Todd Haynes Written by: Phyllis Nagy (screenplay), Patricia Highsmith (novel) Starred by: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah PaulsonKyle Chandler Runtime: 118 mins Rated R

Image courtesy: IMDb

5 responses

  1. I’m looking forward to this, though I’m a bit worried as I just finished the book and it was an absolute bore. I’m hoping the film finds some magic that the novel couldn’t. Great review!

    1. The novel doesn’t have Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. That alone is already making differences. Hopefully you’ll like it!

  2. Great review! I’m really not a fan of period dramas at all but I was still planning on watching Carol, and your review has actually made me quite excited. I’m looking forward to it now!
    – Allie

    1. I’m not a fan either but this one really surprised me in a good way. Really hope you’ll like it, too!

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