Carol (2015)

Todd Haynes directs Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett flawlessly in this nuanced and intoxicating period drama on mutual affection and desire.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Dir. Todd Haynes
2015 | USA | Drama/Romance | 118 mins | 1.85:1 | English
R21 (passed clean) for a scene of sexuality/nudity and brief language

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson
Plot: In 1950s New York, a department-store clerk who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman.
Awards: Won Best Actress & Queer Palm (Cannes). Nom. for 6 Oscars – Best Leading Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score.
International Sales: HanWay Films

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Mature
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: In Theatres
First Published: 21 Dec 2015
Spoilers: No

A Philip Glass-esque main theme by the fairly underrated Carter Burwell (long-time composer for the Coens) begins this intoxicating period drama directed by Todd Haynes.

Like his 2002 work, Far from Heaven, starring Julianne Moore, a homage to Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows (1955), Carol is set in the 1950s. We see huge, classic automobiles rolling away on the streets, people clothed in winter wear as Christmas nears, and department stores selling gifts.

In one of these stores, a bored and restless Rooney Mara (playing Therese) serves customers obligingly, until an older woman catches her eye, played by the alluring Cate Blanchett.

Her name is Carol, but Haynes’ film is essentially Therese’s narrative – an innocent if confused girl in her twenties comes of age in the company of a woman with marital problems. Haynes directs Mara and Blanchett flawlessly, capturing their remarkable performances in fine detail.

A glance conveys deep longing, while a subtle turn of the head in reaction to a touch on the shoulder reveals an insatiable desire to want to connect. Haynes is a master of such discreet expressions of affection and desire, while maintaining an underlying tension caused by societal taboos surrounding homosexuality.

“I don’t know what I want. How could I know what I want if I say yes to everything?”

Never to titillate (the sex scene between Mara and Blanchett comes across as tender and hopeful), Carol is not quite the definitive LGBT movie (even though it is adapted from the groundbreaking 1952 novel ‘The Price of Salt’ by Patricia Highsmith), but it is rich in mood, craft and artistry that will reward discerning viewers.

The fact that the picture was shot on Super 16mm film gives it a luster that might just earn Edward Lachman a deserving Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography.

There has been a lot of confusion as to who should be nominated in which category come awards season. The Golden Globes did the right thing by placing both Mara and Blanchett in the same category. There’s no supporting performance here, least of all Mara whom the studio is slyly campaigning for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

While Blanchett is solid (as always), Mara’s tremendously nuanced performance is the one to embrace. Her face alone is quite simply worth the admission ticket.

Grade: A




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