Carol, directed by Todd Haynes, is an emotionally filled film that allows you to watch almost every aspect of a new and blossoming relationship. This is a film that is filled with meaning and thought – two very different people come together and we are shown something that is small in scale and beautiful in execution.
Set in the 1950’s, Carol is about a young department store worker named Therese Belivet – played by Rooney Mara – who becomes enchanted by an older married woman named Carol Aird – played by Cate Blanchett. The two fall for one another, yet neither are bold enough to say it straight away. Over the course of the film we watch as a new love blossoms, but what is expected of a lady in 1950 and troubles from home will try to prevent it from ever blooming.
At the forefront of Carol are two brilliant performances by Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett and both are so very different from one another. Rooney Mara plays the shy and timid Therese, and she does it well. We learn so much about her and what her inner city life is like. I enjoyed that the film took its time to let you learn about its characters – I really got a sense of who she was and I was genuinely interested in the world and the people she surrounded herself. What Mara also does well is that she overtime evolves the character; we see Therese grow and change as the experiences of her relationship and life influence her, it isn’t noticeable at first but once you begin to see it, it only serves to elevate both the character and the performance.
Cate Blanchett plays a very different character from Mara. Carol Aird is a wealthy woman who loves her child, but not so much her husband (something that the film certainly explores). Carol is a really interesting character to explore and what aids that is the subtlety in which Blanchett played her. From the outside Carol looks to be a confident person who can easily hold the attention of whatever swanky dinner party she is attending, but behind all that is a woman who is definitely struggling with who she is and where she is. Blanchett’s performance brilliantly and subtly reveals this to the audience over the course of the film.
Now when you take both these intriguing characters and both these accomplished actresses and put them in a scene together… well then that’s when the real magic of the film happens. Director Todd Haynes allows the scenes between Carol and Therese to play out at the right pace – it’s never rushed and it never feels like we’re not getting all that feels necessary.
What Haynes also does that is great is that he allows the characters to exist on two planes within the film – I’ll try to explain. Carol and Therese feel real and genuine within the world of the film. This isn’t just a film about two people falling in love and nothing else mattering – outside of the time they spend together are two people with their own lives, their own friends and their own problems. These are two characters that by the end of the film I felt I understood and I was completely invested in; I wanted to know if Therese would achieve her dream of becoming a photographer, I was also hoping that Carol could reconcile her broken family. These were things that happened outside of the main thrust of the film and they mattered. But it always came back to the relationship between Therese and Carol and this is where the second layer of the film comes in – when it becomes just the two of them, whether sitting at a table or driving in the car, the film becomes about them and their time together and it is all brought together with meaningful and engaging dialogue. When these two characters take over the film, nothing else matters.
Carol as a film balances itself perfectly between two almost different aspects of life and it is because of this balance that the film keeps you engaged for its entire length. It is also aided by some excellent structuring. Carol teases us at the beginning with what things will become (but not in a way that spoils the rest of the film) and then takes a step back and dives into the world of these two characters.
Surrounding the two characters is a meticulous sense of detail for 1950’s America. Everything feels natural and lived in; the sounds, the atmosphere of a dinner party compared to a party in a New York apartment. The film melds the two different sides of the American life and not only through its differing characters.
The last point I want to touch upon is something that won’t at first jump out at you – the score within the film compliments everything perfectly. This is a film that is underlined and supported by a subdued score that doesn’t overtake the quiet nature of the film, when it does though, it is impactful and welcomed.
As you can probably tell I really liked this film and it is no surprise that I will be recommending Carol. This is a film with heart to it and is one that I’m positive will be talked about in the upcoming award season. Take the time to watch a wonderfully crafted film.
So does Carol interest you? Let me know in the comments down below. If you want to keep up with the rest of my reviews during the lead up to awards season then perhaps give me a follow on Twitter, @GavinsTurtle. I hope you enjoy some good films this week.