Pride Month, Retrospective Review: Carol

Year: 2015 Run Time: 118 Minutes Directors: Todd Haynes Writers: Phyllis Nagy (based on the story by Patricia Highsmith) Stars: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson

By Kristy Strouse

There’s just something about “Carol” (2015). Not just the mature storytelling, or the strong direction from Todd Haynes, or even the film’s beautiful and stylish design. Those are all contributing factors to the film’s resonance, but, what really captures the spirit, is the magnetism between our two leads: Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Based on the novel The Price of Salt, by Patricia Highsmith, and intelligently adapted to the screen by Phyllis Nagy, “Carol” is another intimate LGBTQ story that is required viewing.

There’s a vein of similarity to my recent review of “Brokeback Mountain” (2005) because, again, we have two characters engaging in an affair that’s looked down upon, in the 1950s era for which they reside. However, this is a very different film, one that is more sensual and even more patient. There is an obvious tether between these two women at the forefront that’s impossible for them to ignore, even if they feel a pressure to hide their feelings at times.

carol cate
Cate Blanchett in Carol (2015) © 2015 – StudioCanal

The film takes you on a gorgeous journey through Christmas in NYC, and through the potent power of alluring love.

The fact that we have two of some of the best working actresses delivering this tale, make it remarkably easy to adore “Carol.”

Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) works as a store clerk in New York City, and from the moment she first meets Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) there’s an instant curiosity about this glamorous, married, suburban housewife shopping for her daughter. Carol has an air about her, much like the actress does herself, that captures the attention of everyone around her. Rooney’s Therese is enraptured, and by extension so are we.

It’s also sultry, at times the sexuality beams between them, but mostly it’s an under the skin…slow boil. When they are together, even before they are truly together, there’s an undeniable charge between them that is visible in their body language and expressions. The fact that we have two of some of the best working actresses delivering this tale, make it remarkably easy to adore “Carol.”
cate and rooney Carol
Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in Carol (2015) © 2015 – StudioCanal
The performances are astonishing.Carol is seductive, alluring and a bit shut down, compared to the more mild Therese. She becomes our eyes, as she’s encompassed by Carol’s confidence, her beauty, and the unrelenting desire for her. Rooney Mara, as she always impresses, does so again. She’s enchanted by her. Therese is much more reserved, and despite her limited verbal expression, her emotions are written all over her face. Both of these women are stilted in that way, hesitant to fully give in to passion at first. With Carol, her actions threaten custody of her daughter, which brings an even higher level of risk. The cast is rounded out with other amazing additions like Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson, and Jake Lacy.
“Carol” can, at times, be a slow affair, but the script delivers the story at a speed worthy of its creation…It’s sensual, introverted, but lovely nonetheless. The fragility of the characters and their courtship makes for a compelling tale.”
“Carol” captivates you, body and soul. This is another story about repression, yearning, but also sexuality and the journey of falling in love (as well as getting your heart broken). This is Therese’s story, and watching this young woman find her way through her feelings, is inspiring to watch, even if it’s emotional too. Despite some occasional missteps along the way, “Carol” does end in a powerful fashion. By the final sequence, there’s a breath of hope for these two, and it sticks with you.
carol film
Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in Carol (2015) © 2015 – StudioCanal
It is important to go back to the fact that Haynes does a terrific job in creating an atmosphere and executing an exquisite design. This sets a tonal precedence from the very beginning, allowing the characters to blossom within this cinematic world. “Carol” can, at times, be a slow affair, but the script delivers the story at a speed worthy of its creation. It is the small moments. That feeling of watching someone, their details, catching the beauty of their movements. It can be revelatory to appreciate the beginning of something, even if a lot of love is held at a distance, and the ending isn’t always as special. It’s sensual, introverted, but lovely nonetheless. The fragility of the characters and their courtship makes for a compelling tale. “Carol” is a stunning example of longing, and the relationships we make. There are several layers to the film, and it softly transfixes you, making it a must-watch. 3.5 stars

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