As in his gorgeous film Far From Heaven and TV series Mildred Pierce, filmmaker Todd Haynes tells a simple story with visual impact and thematic resonance. All three of these projects centre on characters who feel like outsiders in their societies, offering staggeringly complex roles for Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet and now Cate Blanchett. This one is also based on a Patricia Highsmith novel (published originally as The Price of Salt), so it has an added layer of underlying intensity.
The story is set in the run-up to Christmas 1952, as New York department store clerk Therese (Rooney Mara) becomes intrigued by Carol (Blanchett), a glamorous customer who seems unusually attentive. Therese finds a reason to contact her, and the two become friends despite the difference in age and class. Meanwhile, Carol is trying to extricate herself from her marriage to Harge (Kyle Chandler), who is still feeling wounded by Carol's relationship with another woman (Sarah Paulson) and threatens to use her friendship with Therese to deny custody of their young daughter. And Therese also has a nice-guy suitor in Richard (Jake Lacy), who is becoming increasingly suspicious. With all of this pressure on them, Carol and Therese make an impulsive decision to take a road trip together.
The events unfold with delicate precision, as Phyllis Nagy's script smartly allows these woman to circle around each other trying to work out how they feel. There's a gun-in-the-suitcase element that adds a bit of spark, but the real story here plays out between the lines in exquisite performances from Blanchett and Mara, who convey most of their feelings through offhanded glances and subtle gestures. This adds beautifully to the depiction of the period's repressive attitudes without ever being obvious about it, and it also reveals the deep emotions that come with feeling like you don't fit in with what society expects of you.
Continue reading: Carol Review
Therese Belivet is just starting out in life, bored by her simple job in a department store and even more so by her relationship with Richard. She dreams of bigger things; a career as a set designer and experiencing true love. Love has never found its way into Therese's life, that is until she meets a privileged and sophisticated older woman named Carol with whom she immediately bonds. While Carol's life is the opposite of Therese's in that she enjoys luxury on an everyday basis, she is equally dismayed by her love life; trapped in a marriage with a man she does not love, so that she may continue seeing her young daughter. As her relationship with Therese deepens, their attraction for each other becomes clear to everyone else, as well as Carol's intriguing friendship with close companion Abby, and she faces losing everything in her quest to discover herself once and for all.
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