Film review of the 1950’s set drama about a burgeoning lesbian relationship, directed by Todd Haynes and starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.
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Director: Todd Haynes. (118 min). Studiocanal
Cast and credits
Producers: Elizabeth Karlsen, Christine Vachon, Stephen Woolley
Writer: Phyllis Nagy
Camera: Edward Lachman
Music: Carter Burwell
Sets: Heather Loeffler
Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Poulson.
Therese (Mara) is an aspiring photographer working in a Manhattan department store where she first encounters (Blanchett), an alluring older woman whose marriage is breaking down.
If a reporter of a TV channel had come to me soon after I left the screening room of Carol and had asked me my first impressions, I would have said simply: “It is a beautiful film”. And by it, I mean the definition of Beauty: “a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight”. Very simple. Every movie should please the sight, but I find it very rare nowadays. Movies now challenge the sight.
Surely this aesthetic aspect of Carol comes from Todd Haynes’ (Far From Heaven, Velvet Goldmine) creative method. Having read Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price Of Salt, as well as Phyllis Nagy’s script, he decided to start the story from a brief encounter of the two main characters. It is a love story between two women and when the novel was written (1952) this was still socially unacceptable. Highsmith wrote under a pseudonym. So, Todd’s rhythm and precision in details reveal in a way the essence of all women: a hidden treasure.
What I mean by hidden treasure is a key to enjoying the film. In a feminine body everything is internal, hidden; on the other hand, in a masculine body everything is exposed, obvious. This is the very principle of feminine soul and essence and I would say Todd got it right in Carol.
By choosing to film many scenes through glass (car windows, Theresa’s camera’s point of view) or the details of their costumes, Todd is anticipating all the beauty that is soon to blossom from the two women. The rather unlikely aspect of their affair, not only because it was a same-sex relationship, but also because both of them come from very different social and cultural backgrounds, and in addition have an age gap, is somewhat erased by the reality. They fall in love. And in love there are no rules.
The difference between this movie and a fairy tale romance is that reality does play an important role in their romance. There are obstacles. Carol looses the custody of her daughter due to “indecent behaviour”. And there are obstacles to the sight too, to the desire, which appears in the photography of the film.
Cate Blanchett mentions the austerity of the 50s as a key to interpret the story. “You didn’t express your feelings. It was inapropriate to talk about how you felt”. Also the environment is important to compose the character. She emphasizes the fact that they filmed in Cincinnatti, where “the air is quite still”. So she found very useful in order to reach what her character might represent and bring to the audience.
Instead of focusing on what could still be shocking in a lesbian relationship, Carol carries a floating grace. This state of grace is shown in Cate’s classic style, but also in Theresa’s irreversible passion.
If you are in need of Grace and Beauty, do not hesitate to hurry to the cinema this weekend.
See the official trailer on Youtube.