Director: Todd Haynes
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler.
Release Date: 27th November
Cinema is an unusual medium. It can be transformative or evocative, but it is a rare experience to come away from a film with the feeling that something has changed, and you can’t quite put your finger on what. This is the feeling when leaving the cinema after seeing the very powerful and moving Carol.
Director Todd Haynes’ period drama tells the story of a forbidden love affair between two women in 1950s New York. One of the women is older, married with a daughter and wealthy. The other is young and vulnerable, but grows throughout the course of the film.
Carol is as much about their love as it is about the forces that pull love apart. Blanchett as the eponymous Carol thrills with every moment she is on screen. She exudes power in her moments alongside co-star Rooney Mara as she towers over her. She occupies the screen with a certain vivacity; she is commanding yet subtle, seductive yet vulnerable. However there is also the fragility that each move occupies: a flick of the wrist or a tremor of the throat can say a great deal about her character. As Carol, she is inspiring in a role that is surely a career best – a challenging accolade to achieve for the Oscar winning actress.
Rooney Mara is similarly spellbinding. Some of the film’s strongest moments are when the camera lingers on her; she stares steadfastly at Carol throughout with an unwavering and clear gaze. Since her breakout role in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award, Mara has blossomed. Her performance in Carol is easily one of her finest to date.
Carol is beautifully filmed, with stunning visuals and wonderful cinematography. The finished piece is perfectly crafted; parts of the film feel obscured, as objects and people get in the way, and extreme close-ups of the faces of Blanchett and Mara give the film an intensely personal feel. Haynes has captured the act of falling in love with a special kind of tenderness and subtlety. Something as simple as a touch on the shoulder takes on a new resonance in the hands of Haynes and his incredibly talented lead actresses.
It is a rare treat to see a period drama so in touch with the relationship it is conveying. Haynes leaves behind the Hollywood trope of allowing homosexual relationships to happen off-screen in favour of bringing this one into the open. The intensity of the relationship is built up throughout the film, before exploding into raw sexuality. It is brave and bold in its honest and endearing depiction of love between two women in an oppressive time and place.
Carol is the kind of film that was made to win awards. Every year they are set loose on audiences with hopeless abandon in the run up to the Academy Awards. Some are good, some are not so good. Carol, however, is an absolute triumph. Subtle direction, engaging acting and beautiful cinematography combine to make this one of the most invigorating films of the year – with career best turns from both Blanchett and Mara, who are stunning on-screen throughout.
In a nutshell: A stunning period drama, Todd Haynes’ Carol is a triumph of direction and acting.