Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler
Director: Todd Haynes
Running Time: 118 mins
Carol is an American film about the story of two women, one a young shopping mall clerk, the other an upper-class mother and wife, who develop a passionate relationship over the course of one Christmas season in 1950s New York.
This is an absolutely wonderful film, which features some incredible directing and acting as well as a generally compelling plot that manages to avoid all of your expectations and provide a story that’s really quite different.
In effect, the plot is about the romance between two women, and how, in the 1950s, that could go down so badly amongst society, but where this film’s genius lies is in its ability to show this story not in the normal ‘taboo’ way, but actually just as a standard romance, where it’s the main characters’ love that is strongest instead of the ways in which society views them.
As a result, you get a wonderful love story right the way through, but it’s still not one without high drama. The inner conflict of Rooney Mara’s young character is fascinating to watch, whilst Cate Blanchett’s character engages in a fierce legal battle with her husband throughout, adding an extra level of emotional intrigue, and preventing this from becoming too much of a run-of-the-mill romantic drama.
In general, you get an absolutely fascinating plot with this film, and although you could say that the opening phase is a little bit sluggish in establishing the characters and the main romance (although the general pace of the whole film is very patient), it’s easy to get really engrossed in this story.
Beyond the plot, the performances here are very strong too. Rooney Mara is excellent in the role of a young woman finding herself overcome with unexpected emotions, but it’s still Cate Blanchett that steals the show. Although Mara plays the main character, Blanchett’s presentation of Carol, the older, sophisticated woman, is pretty astonishing.
You can tell with this performance that she’s an actress right at the top of her game, because every time she appears in any scene, she completely dominates, showing off all her amazing talent to the full, and although this arguably isn’t as clearly impressive a performance as Blue Jasmine, the way she turns Carol into this illusive woman who so easily becomes the object of the younger woman’s affection, is fantastic.
Finally, it has to be said that this is one of the most aesthetically pleasing film you’ll see all year. Todd Haynes’ direction is fabulous, and, along with the beautiful costume and production design, he does such an excellent job of creating this cosy world in 1950s New York that makes this such a pleasant story, as well as taking some interesting choices over the cinematography. It seems that in most scenes, all the characters appear very neatly off-centre, which is just a small touch, but brilliant attention to detail, that got to me and made me love looking at this beautiful film even more, so that’s why I’ll give Carol a 7.7.