Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel, Carol is a sumptuous and engaging romantic drama.
Working in a department store in New York, shop girl Therese meets married older lady Carol when the latter comes into the store to buy a Christmas gift. The two embark on a friendship that spells danger for Carol’s home life…
Director Todd Haynes’ Carol is a entertaining drama which offers good performances and great production values. The film concentrates on the relationship between the wealthy Carol and the younger shop girl Therese in a time when any non-traditional relationship was taboo or worse. The film works in social issues of its 1950s setting in a way that seems a natural outcome of the relationship.
Haynes’ direction and Phyllis Nagy’s screenplay are effective at keeping viewers engaged throughout the film. Carol and Therese’s relationship is portrayed in a compelling way; the writing and performances make it easy to get on board with the protagonists. Both characters are depicted in a believable fashion, and are given enough personality to engage with the audience. Viewers will root for the couple, even if their union looks doomed. The ending of the film is a brilliant stroke.
The period setting calls for issues with a same-sex relationship to be at the forefront. Carol respects this; the film’s narrative allows for a number of different aspects to be brought up. The illustrations of these problems are entirely convincing. Moreover, the film highlights other differences in Carol and Therese’s relationship, namely age and class. These social issues are dealt with a slighter hand, yet still represent the constraints of the period.
Cate Blanchett delivers as competent a performance as ever; she is completely convincing as Carol. Rooney Mara offers perhaps her best performance to date. Her quiet understatement seems perfect for Therese. Carter Burwell’s score is magnificent, and Sandy Powell’s costumes are wonderful. This is particularly true of Blanchett’s glamorous wardrobe.
In spite of the social issues at play, Carol is ultimately a love story. The film is a finely executed piece of romantic drama.
Carol is being screened at the London Film Festival in October 2015.