For the last few weeks critics have been falling in love with Todd Haynes new film Carol. The Academy voters will, I’m sure, soon follow suit. I am completely fine with this as I fell in love with this beautiful story as it unfolded in front of my eyes. Carol is truly captivating in all ways, starting from the first frame as the camera travels slowly down a busy New York street in the 1950s. Haynes’ director of photography Edward Lachman, with whom he has collaborated many times in the past, drinks in the beauty of the time throughout the film, immersing you in it’s beauty. Simply put, Carol is truly cinematic gold.
If the look of this film and the style doesn’t win you over then the performances will definitely leave you buzzing. Rooney Mara gives the performance of her career against the brilliance of Cate Blanchett’s constantly glowing star power and the two share a palpable chemistry that bubbles through the first half of the film with a sexual and emotional tension that has you enraptured as the characters start to open to you. If Todd Haynes and company don’t see multiple awards this year, like they’re already receiving, it will be an absolute travesty. Make no mistake, the accolades this film is receiving are the real deal but I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
The film focuses of Therese Belivet (Mara), a shop girl working in the toy section of a department store during Christmas in Manhattan. Looking over the customers, she locks eyes with a woman (Blanchett) across the store for a deep second and then she’s gone. Moments later, the same woman comes to Therese’s counter to ask for a gift for her daughter, introducing herself as Carol Aird. The two talk, Carol purchases a train set and leaves, forgetting her gloves behind.
Intrigued by Carol, Therese takes it upon herself to mail back Carol’s gloves to her, using her address on the receipt. Carol returns to the store to thank Therese and asks her to lunch. During the lunch, Carol reveals that she’s in the midst of a divorce from her husband Herge (Kyle Chandler).
As the story expands, we see that Herge is very neglectful of Carol but now, in the ugly process of separation, is trying to keep Carol in his life and will go to any depth to keep her. This includes trying to take their daughter Rindy away from her, citing that her proclivity to questionable sexual conduct is something that puts the child at risk. I believe the audience can easily extrapolate what that is. As Carol begins to think that all is lost, on a whim, she asks Therese to run away on a cross country trip with her and the romance blooms even more, changing both women forever.
As the film progresses, you form a deep bond with the love story building with these women who are totally lost to everybody but each other. Therese is able to shed the shell of who she thought she was while Carol seems to use her feelings as a way to escape the reality of her situation. It’s a bittersweet tone as the two women find the keys to their own self worth hidden within each other, most definitely in Therese Belivet’s case.
Todd Haynes has been an incredible director that has consistently been brought up into the conversation of the top filmmakers today and Carol is a sparkling addition to his impressive career. It’s also, just simply, a beautiful tale of love and infatuation. It makes you feel the breathlessness of being so caught up in someone that everything ceases to have meaning. When the two finally give in to their pent up desires, the release is like fireworks, one of the best movie moments this year.
The more I thought about this movie, after I watched it and before heading in to this review, the more I adored it. Not only is it a beautiful portrait of unaccepted love in a different time but it’s also a deep character piece of a young woman being thrown headlong into things she doesn’t understand. Rooney Mara shines brightly in a way I compare to Audrey Hepburn, expressive with just her gorgeous eyes which give everything to her massive performance. The trailer for Carol says Oscar nominee but after the Oscars next year it will say winner. Carol is a clear five out of five and another must see of 2015.