Set in the 1950s when same sex relationships were still a rarity, Carol is a visually satisfying period romance about a forbidden love affair between two women in New York. A brief encounter in a department store leads to a slow burning romance between shop assistant and budding photographer Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) and high class socialite Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett). The relationship leads to the realisation that sometimes being yourself does come at a cost, but is the cost worth it?
There is very little narrative in Carol and the love affair is mostly told through evocative music and telling looks. The music is largely slow piano, and the beauty of this score suggests depth of feelings without overwhelming the viewer. The score is more revealing than the dialogue as there is actually very little conversation between the characters and the romance itself is a slow burner.
Although the score does successfully tell the underlying emotions of the characters, the lack of dialogue is a little bit frustrating in the beginning as the formation of their friendship is quite a hard sell. Carol leaves some gloves at the store which Therese returns to her and as a thank you Carol takes her to lunch. It’s unlikely these events would lead the two characters to develop strong feelings for each other, but if you can get past this, the rest of the film is a beautiful thing.
The beauty of the soundtrack is matched only by the powerfully quiet performances of both Mara and Blanchett. Blanchett manages to portray Carol’s unhappiness beautifully and sympathetically. She is a woman trapped in a loveless marriage who is afraid to be herself for fear of losing access to her daughter and being rejected by society. Therese is a character unsure of her place in the world and who she wants to be and Rooney Mara successfully portrays this with a quiet subtle performance that is mostly told through the direction of her eyes.
Carol is a beautiful slow burning film with evocative music and performances that tell the story of this relationship in a quiet and suggestive way.
Dir: Todd Haynes
Starring: Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett
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