Review: Carol

Carol Aird is a lovely middle-aged woman and devoted mother to her daughter, yet she yearns for freedom from her soon-to-be ex-husband Harge. One day, she strikes a kinship with a fetching young woman named Therese Bellivet, a department store clerk with ambitions of her own and as the two deepen their relationship, their true feelings for each other are explored.

Image by The Weinstein Company

Adapted to the screen courtesy of Phyllis Nagy, from the novel written by Patricia Highsmith, and directed impeccably by Todd Haynes, Carol is simply and I quote from the film:

the most breathtaking of gifts

After months of just reading about and listening to the acclaim this film has received since it stole the show at the Cannes Film Festival this summer, I waited patiently for this film to be in reach and when the opportunity presented itself, I seized it and I encourage my readers to do the same if the opportunity presents. Carol is simply stunning, in fact I call it a rare cinematic work of artistry on nearly every level conceivable.

Image Georges Biard, via Wikimedia Commons

I felt that Carol starts a little slow and it’s pacing is a tad sluggish, but through the implementation of the flashback narrative watching the two pivotal characters, who are played with extraordinary distinction by leading ladies Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, as their friendship and relationship deepens, the film gains the power of a locomotive and simply bowls audiences over.

Let’s talk about the leading ladies who probably have Oscar-nominations coming their way, shall we? Cate Blanchett is a vision; I’ve always had a high degree of her acting capabilities and she is practically flawless in this role but when she is on camera, she physically nails the image of classic 1950s beauty; she probably gave the best performance I’ve seen from her to date.

When I saw Rooney Mara in David Fincher’s version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, she was a powerhouse and she taps into that powerhouse element again in her performance as the young and impressionable Therese Bellivet. Mara delivers an exquisite performance and the chemistry between her and Blanchett is undeniably beautiful and undoubtedly fuels the fire to such a beautiful film.

Image By Elen Nivrae (Rooney Mara), via Wikimedia Commons

Phyllis Nagy’s screenplay is without question one of the year’s most well-written, and I’m not afraid to say I was awestruck by how gorgeous this unconventional story played out. “A 1950’s love story between two lovely, lonely and vulnerable women set against the backdrop of New York City,” is a fascinating concept that will draw people in but Carol will haunt you for days by how lovely the film is written.

I must confess, if I wasn’t a fan of Todd Haynes prior-Carol, I was certainly swayed post-Carol. I look for a balance of artistic vision and strong story in a movie I can celebrate and Todd Haynes delivered that exactly how I wanted it. In fact, I feel that I can say that Todd Haynes delivered the most prolific statement about feminism and sexual identity among any director this year in film with Carol.

I felt that instead of other directors like George Miller, Sarah Gavron or Tom Hooper, who I thought went way over the top with their messages, I felt that Haynes opted to go subtle, to allow the film to speak on its own rather than the other directors use their films as a mouthpiece for what they had to say about feminism, gender identity or sexual identity. The characters of Carol and Therese are yearning for liberation from the men who wish to keep them in the traditional chains of the time and naturally fall in love with each other without recognizing the idea that maybe this could be wrong. There is beauty in that.

I could pluck Kyle Chandler and Sarah Paulson out of the lineup of supporting characters worth appreciating but Carol is ultimately the “Cate Blanchett-Rooney Mara” show.

The makeup department, Judy Becker’s production design, Jesse Rosenthal’s art direction, Heather Loeffler’s set decoration, Sandy Powell’s costume design all splendid work. I thought Carol perfectly captured that classic 1950s vibe and breathed life into something truly wonderful.

Edward Lachman’s cinematography is certifiably resplendent. I truly couldn’t take my eyes of this movie because the camerawork and how everything was shot was truly mesmerizing. The editing of Affonso Gonçalves was so natural and fluid, it was almost hypnotic and I credit Carter Burwell for adding the precise tone for the film though his score.

Carol ranks among the masterclass motion pictures of 2015 in my opinion. It brings the genuine simplicity artistry you could possibly ask for in a feature, focuses it around two awesome actresses and just thrives. I could not be more impressed.

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