CAROL (UK | USA/TBC/118mins)
Diecred by Todd Haynes. Starring Cate Blanchett. Rooney Mara, Carrie Brownstein, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler.
THE PLOT: Therese (Rooney Mara) first meets the aloof but curiously magnetic Carol (Cate Blanchett) when she serves her in an upmarket department store. The two women soon become friends and, as Carol’s divorce from Herge (Kyle Chandler) turns ugly, the two grow closer. Herge, however, is unable to let Carol go, and begins to use her relationship with Therese as a weapon in their divorce.
THE VERDICT: There has been much talk of CAROL for some time now, so it is hardly surprising that this tale of forbidden love in 1950s America was one of the most highly anticipated films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Blanchett is on enigmatic, engaging and slightly scary form as the title character, making the character aloof and beautiful, with a feeling of a shark circling Mara, and a layer of vulnerability not far below the surface. Mara is perhaps the best she has ever been as Therese, the young ingénue who knows she doesn’t want to marry her boyfriend, but is not always quite sure why. The chemistry, affection and respect between Blanchett and Mara runs deep on screen and they are a joy to watch together. The rest of the cast is made up of Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson and Carrie Brownstein in a small role.
Phyllis Nagy’s screenplay, adapted from Highsmith’s novel, is careful in its portrayal of a romantic relationship between two women, never straying into gratuity, but making the connection between the two feel real and honest. The dialogue creates a shiny layer on the surface of the film, which is allowed to crack from time to time, and show the vulnerability and fear inherent in these characters.
As director, Todd Haynes makes the world of the film beautiful and rich, but fills it with shadows and secret corners. Haynes makes Blanchett and Mara’s characters and performances the heart and soul of the film, but it is truly with Blanchett that the film lives and dies. In fact, when Blanchett disappears from proceedings in the second act, she seems to take the pacing with her, meaning the film drags its heels for several minutes, before recovering when she returns. The film has touches of great love stories of the past, calling to mind classics like DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, CASABLANCA and THE AGE OF INNOCENCE. Edward Lachman’s cinematography, Carter Burwell’s music and Judy Becker’s production design all enrich the film, making this world feel at once familiar and completely new.
In all, CAROL is a powerful and engaging look at a same sex relationship in 1950s America, and the toll it takes on those involved due to attitudes at the time. Blanchett and Mara light up the screen; every touch is sensual and every glance speaks volumes. The production design is lavish and sumptuous, and Lachman’s cinematography is warm and beautiful. I think we may have found a serious contender for the Palme D’Or in CAROL.
Rating: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Cannes Review - Carol
Review by Brogen Hayes
4.0Powerful
  • Randy

    I am beyond exited about this one and hope that it will live up to expectations. The first reviews are very positive, and I’m glad you like it too.

  • filmbuff2011

    Carol is Todd Haynes’ first film since 2007’s I’m Not There. He really should make more films, as Carol is a masterful dissection of a then-taboo relationship in the making. Christmas, 1951. Carol (Cate Blanchett) is a successful New York lady in her 40s who has a young daughter. She and her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) are going through a painful divorce, fighting over custody of their daughter. It’s as this point that she meets Therese (Rooney Mara), a twentysomething department store shop girl. Their eyes catch instantly and a friendship is struck up. That then develops into something a lot more, as they meet up for lunch dates. Therese doesn’t seem to know what she wants – she acts in an indifferent manner to her supposed boyfriend Richard (Jake Lacy). Carol refers to her as a strange girl, an angel, flung from space… But it looks she knows what she wants with Carol. A cross-country road trip over the Christmas period will have far-reaching consequences on a personal level for both Carol and Therese… Like the recent, superb 45 Years, Carol is a love story about deeply personal relationships that are told more through suggestion than through actions. It’s what’s not said that counts. This is a film about glances, looks, a sense of longing, a slow drag of a cigarette, a gentle hand on a shoulder. Phyllis Nagy’s skilfully-adapted screenplay, based on Patricia Highsmith’s partly autobiographical novel The Price Of Salt, feels very much of the period. The love that dare not speak its name is kept very much under wraps in public places. One of the most telling scenes is in a country diner when Therese reaches across the table to put her hand on Carol’s, but then discreetly draws it away. Haynes has form in this area before, with the lavish, Douglas Sirk-inspired 50s melodrama Far From Heaven. This is the flipside of that – told from the perspective of two women in love and feeling that sudden rush of excitement… while keeping it tempered and subtle. Blanchett, as ever, is excellent with a perfectly poised performance. But it’s Mara, given the more difficult role, who really entices and impresses. She holds the screen with a sad sense of longing and wanting to belong, but the object of her character’s affection is a world away from hers. The period detail is captured by Edward Lachman’s lush cinematography, but it doesn’t feel like a nostalgia trip to a simpler time. Carol may be a slow-burner, but it feels fully formed, delicately told and is supported by two excellent performances. Surely Oscar nominations are due here. Exquisite. ****

  • emerb

    “Carol” is an excellently crafted film, a faithful adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 delicate and deeply felt lesbian romance “The Price of Salt”. Directed by Todd Haynes, it stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as a pair of women drawn together in spite of the stifling social conformity of the era. Blanchett plays the titular “Carol”, a beautiful older married woman facing an anxious crossroads in her life and Mara is a more impressionable, younger girl who serves her in a pre-Christmas rush department store, a first meeting from which love blossoms. Haynes previously explored the theme of forbidden love in the 1950s-set “Far From Heaven,” as well as female protagonists rebelling against societal constraints in “Mildred Pierce.” So this is somewhat familiar territory for him.

    Set over the Christmas holiday period in 1952-53 during a time of uncertainty in the USA, this is a love story that is pursued through very uncertain and dangerous waters. Quiet, mousy young Therese (Mara) is a toyshop clerk in a Manhattan department store where she leads a drab, ordinary life. She wants to be a photographer and is also saddled with a platonic fiancé Richard (Jake Lacy), with whom she has made vague plans to travel to Europe. Enter New York City housewife Carol Aird (Blanchett), an elegant socialite who’s looking for a Christmas gift to buy for her young daughter, Rindy (played by Sadie and Kennedy Heim). There is an immediate spark between them. Therese suggests a train set and the order is put in but Carol knowingly leaves her gloves behind, a moment that will lead to their whirlwind romance. They conspire to meet for lunch, and later a Sunday visit to Carol’s suburban home, before a road trip together where their romance comes alive. At first, Therese resists the idea that she is in love but Carol lavishes her with gifts and lunches and she becomes dazzled by the attention and is swept into the friendship. Meanwhile, Carol deals with a divorce from her bewildered, resentful husband Harge, who still wants her back. Carol (who’s had previous lesbian relationships) wants to take Therese away for the holidays while her husband insists on going with their young daughter to his family’s house for Christmas. Soon, of course, they do go away on a blissful getaway together, which is marked by shared hotel suites and hours behind the wheel. The two women grow closer and ultimately cement their bond. However, their nirvana is short-lived, the combination of her new lover and the rejection of her husband’s advances leads Carol into a bitter custody battle for their only child. Things turn very nasty and her relationship with Therese becomes increasingly hazardous.

    The success of this film ultimately rests on the combined talents of its 2 main actresses, both are credible and powerful in their roles as two women precariously charting a path toward a romantic relationship in 1952. Blanchett is typically outstanding as the strong-willed Carol, who alternates between furious outbursts with her husband and passionate declarations of love to her newfound companion. She makes an indelible impression as a woman who deftly and slowly reveals the cracks behind her glamourous lifestyle. Carol has brilliantly mastered the skill of navigating through life but to the detriment of her husband, her child and her own happiness – it has all been a charade but she still has the strength to try to change course, even after so many years. She turns out to be much tougher and wiser than those luxurious outfits would suggest. Mara is a revelation and she seems born to the role of someone who seems to be so naïve and guarded but yet is not afraid to pursue what she really wants in life. Supporting performances are solid, including Kyle Chandler, as Carol’s husband Harge and Sarah Paulson as Abby, the childhood friend and Carol’s ex-lover. But you cannot take this film away from its two leads who, beneath the sparse dialogue, seem to be always communicating in their own secret language of looks and gestures and sideways glances.

    “Carol” is a beautiful film, immaculately made, absorbing and elevated by superb performances. I think it stands to generate a large audience as one of the few pictures centered around a homosexual relationship set during a much less tolerant era. The subject itself is depicted in such a demure, tasteful manner that it is likely to receive a good critical reception too. The star power of Cate Blanchett along with Haynes’ art-house following and Mara’s rising profile will ensure must-see status for many a movie goer, and I can see it generating much noise around awards season also. The film is also magnificent and stylish to look at. Multiple Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell rolls out a stunning range of greens and red mid-century costumes which are worn to splendid effect, especially by Blanchett. The attention to detail in the production design from Judy Becker is exquisite too – the film is handsomely furnished in all respects, not just the clothes but also the hair, the cars, the train carriages, the accessories, the make up – it is all flawlessly picture perfect. Haynes also benefits from regular director of photography Edward Lachman and Carter Burwell provides a superbly apt score. “Carol” is a stark and moving reminder of the societal persecution gays and lesbians faced for the majority of the 20th Century and it is shocking to think that in many parts of the world, such injustices still prevail. It is a film well worth watching on so many levels.