- RatedR21 /GenreDrama, Romance
They say that the eyes are windows to the soul.
In ‘Carol’, the eyes are everything.
It's Christmas in 1950s New York. Therese (Rooney Mara) is a salesclerk in the toy section of an upmarket department store and she notices a glamorous woman. The older woman is Carol (Cate Blanchett) and she's shopping for her young daughter.
Their eyes meet. A fur-clad and immaculately dressed Carol saunters across the shop floor to Therese’s counter -- their magnetism unmistakable. Therese stares at Carol, fascinated at what’s before her.
The fascination and craving continues through the rest of ‘Carol’, director Todd Haynes’ (‘Far From Heaven’) adaptation of Patricia Highsmith‘s novel “The Price of Salt’.
A love story between two women set in a time when that relationship was taboo, ‘Carol’ is one of those extraordinary films that could get away with bouts of awkward silence, and still be enthralling nonetheless; its protagonists watching each other with furtive gazes, longing stares and unspoken desires.
Elegantly shot in gorgeous 16mm film by cinematographer Ed Lachman, ‘Carol’ is spotlessly detailed and well-appointed -- cars, clothes, houses, artifacts and costumes. It is an outstanding piece of filmmaking where every scene, beat are carefully considered, and all bolstered by thrilling performances and Carter Burwell’s haunting score.
Much of the credit goes to the movie’s two leads. In a performance as powerful as her Oscar-winning turn in ‘Blue Jasmine’, Cate Blanchett’s titular Carol is a complex woman who sits on one end of a spectrum, while Mara’s Therese on the other.
Blanchett’s Carol is experienced in the art of subtle seduction. When the two first meet, Carol leaves her gloves behind – maybe intentionally – so that Therese can return it to her. Grateful, she takes Therese out to lunch and then subsequently invites the younger woman to her house.
Soon, of course, they are to go on a trip together, careful to stay in different rooms until one day they decide on the “presidential suite” on a whim, and their relationship advances. The scene that has got everyone’s tongues wagging is tastefully done, with a judicious measure of skin. But the air of eroticism is cruelly broken, when Carol’s troubles catches up with her.
Obviously, the pair’s relationship is not as simple as it looks. Therese is engaged to her boyfriend (Jack Lacy), while Carol is undergoing a messy divorce where her husband (Kyle Chandler) is fighting for custody of their child on the basis of her affairs with women (she was previously involved with a friend, played by Sarah Paulson).
Mara is just as mesmerizing as the elfin shopgirl and wannabe photographer Therese. She plays the part of a naïve and curious young woman who is confident of pursuing what she wants in life down pat. Upon meeting Carol, Therese promptly realises that there are bigger opportunities – life, love, career – out there.
Together with Blanchett, both actresses use eye contact and body language to speak what their heart feels. They are able to simultaneously conceal and then slowly peel away at their characters’ deeply set desires.
It is an intoxicating film that seeks to comprehend the intricacies of the human condition. ‘Carol’, interestingly, ends as it begins, with a look between the two women that screams clarity.
‘Carol’ opens 24 December 2015