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Carol – Film Review V2.0


Carol – Film Review by Pierce McDonough

Directed by Todd Haynes
Writers: Phyllis Nagy (screenplay), Patricia Highsmith (novel)
Stars: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson

Sensitive filmmaking highlights the subtle glances, brushing contact and longing gazes between the suburban mother, Carol and young sales girl/aspiring photographer, Theresa. Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel, ‘The Price of Salt’, Todd Haynes’s period melodrama portrays the blossoming but forbidden romance with a remarkable subtly, refusing to indulge in the explosive histrionics that the narrative could easily trigger and the genre is often characterised for.

Cate Blanchett turns in a fantastic performance as the sophisticated, confident Carol who rarely loses her composure despite her inner frustration at being married to a man who’s reluctant to accept her sexuality and move on. Afraid to lose custody over her child, she’s forced to keep her lesbian affair a secret in the repressive 50’s America that Haynes presents. It’s an environment which also sees Theresa hesitant to express any uncertainty about her own sexuality. Rooney Mara succeeds in portraying her private confusion and gentle foray into satisfying her sexual curiosity.

Carol first meets Theresa behind the counter in a Manhattan department store. They flirt and Carol leaves behind her leather gloves prompting Theresa to make contact with her. We can only assume whether this was a strategic move on Carol’s part or not as Haynes never tells us. Much of the film is ambiguous as the characters are kept at a distance, constantly disappearing out of frame, partially obscured by walls and doors or positioned behind windows.

16mm film captures a muted colour scheme that suits the restrained performances its leads give and allows for the vibrant sprinkling of red dresses, lipstick and nail polish to be all the more striking. A particularly remarkable example comes to mind. Peering through a taxi window, Carol sees Theresa dashing across a busy street. Wearing a red jacket and shoes, she leaps out from the grey suits, cars and street that surround her, making it impossible to look at anything else. Like Carol, we can’t take our eyes off her.


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