“What’s the point in holding back?”
Carol stars Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet; she works in a New York City department store, she has a man she’s not quite sure on and a penchant for photography – sounds pretty normal, until Carol (Cate Blanchett) rocks her world.
Carol, older, is wealthy and mature- a major curiosity to Therese. She wears decadent frocks that would make Grace Kelly jealous and when the two of them Meet Cute across the shop floor Carol’s efforts to reach out succeed when her steely gaze and grandiose style and speech penetrate Therese’s barriers and speak to her soul.
Carol leaves her gloves on the counter (like a one night stand might leave an item of clothing to set-up a 2nd encounter) which Therese promptly return and thus their unexpected friendship blossoms through a series of fancy dinners and the visiting of each other’s homes. When together the chemistry between the two characters is apparent and shines with the subtle performances of Mara and Blanchett. Haynes directs small moments that establish their characters and relationship well. At a café the two share lunch and whenever Carol eats he cuts to behind her so the rather common action of taking food to the mouth is hidden; when Therese eats, she’s dropping food, twitchy and talking whilst eating – even though Mara resembles Audrey Hepburn to a T in this film, Haynes made her an awkward mucky pup when he wanted to.
The film continues their relationship and to me spoke a lot about adventure and experiencing everything in life. In a similar way to how a young person might be attracted blindly to someone slightly older though many others never feel this urge, Carol then adds how this impulse might in fact be present in everyone but to different degrees and how urges change when the honeymoon period ends. An example would be the sharp talking fella wanting to marry Therese, he wants to leave it all for Europe (a big step in itself) and Therese… she wants to leave it all for Carol – “Two weeks, I give it two weeks and you’ll be back here!”.
Shot on Super 16mm film and likely edited digitally, Carol is dazzlingly beautiful to watch – for me, equally as beautiful as the recent Inside Llewyn Davis. Set around Christmas time, green, gold and red are abundant in every frame with the only stand out colour being the Turquoise of the opening title and matching colour Therese eventually paints her bedroom in (What does this mean?!?!). The abundant colours combined with the graininess of the film create an atmosphere of upper-class 50s society that the story thrives in. But it doesn’t just run like a Waitrose advert, the film travels to several locations and shoots indoors and outdoors maintaining that warm tone through consistent colour grading. The costumes, as previously mentioned, on our stars and extras are fantastic and will be probably constitute another of the many Oscar nods this film will receive.
Without doubt one of the best films of the year and likely to be one of the most criminally underseen, Carol, an adaption of Patricia Highsmith’s 50s novel The Price of Salt, is the quirky metrosexual love story to capture the attention of prolific director Haynes and therefore should warrant yours too.
Go for the big names attached, stay for the story. As it should be, in a way.