A film based on a novel written about homosexual love in 1952, at a time when it was outlawed and shamed, Carol goes far beyond that. For the love that Therese (Mara) and Carol (Blanchett) share comes about as naturally as two people looking across a room getting attracted to one another, and acting upon it. When Therese and Carol are together, there is no room for anyone else, either for them or for us. They become different people around each other, and it’s not just they who sense it but the others close to them too.
The Patricia Highsmith novel was told from Therese’s perspective. The film tells the story from both sides and even gives it the title Carol, which is fitting as it is the love of the older woman that breaks free of a more traditional space. Carol is married, though on the verge of a divorce, and mother to a four-year-old girl. Her husband uses their daughter as blackmail when he realises Carol’s love for Therese, and Blanchett is exquisite in her longing for both.
Haynes, a natural director of women-centred films, also brings forth the layer of guilt that women bear for most things associated with selfish pleasure. Therese doesn’t want to hurt her boyfriend, and Carol her husband (played by Kyle Chandler), and the fact of their getting behind a wheel to drive away from both for a road trip is exhilarating itself.
The acting Oscar nominations for Blanchett and Mara (Actress, Supporting Actress) are both well deserved. While Blanchett not surprisingly is great as this very rich and polished yet dangerously brittle woman who starts off as the more confident and even a tad pushy one in the affair, Mara is a revelation as a girl who is as vulnerable as she is generous.
Paulson as Carol’s first female sexual partner but more importantly the friend to all her secrets is also impressive in her very short role.
It’s sad that the film doesn’t do justice to its actors as far as dialogues go. Carol’s and Therese’s conversation never really matches up to what the two women are telling each other with their eyes, touch, tears and smiles.
Directed by Todd Haynes
Starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson