Director : Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven) Starring : Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacy. Verdict: Two women. One look. No plan.
FIRST comes the falling in love. Then comes the fallout.
So it goes in Carol, an exquisitely composed and deeply felt romantic drama that will speak to anyone who has ever lost their heart, or lost their way living in fear of the consequences.
It is Christmas time in New York in the 1950s. Carol (Cate Blanchett), a wife and mother in her late 30s, is shopping for a present for her young daughter.
While combing the shelves of the toy section in a busy department store, Carol locks eyes with a young woman working the sales counter.
Her name is Therese (Rooney Mara), an aspiring photographer in her early 20s. Struck by the intensity of Carol’s burning, yearning gaze, Therese is like a deer in the headlights.
The attraction is mutual, immediate and knocks both women for a loop. While hints are dropped Carol might have been down this road before, this is daunting new territory for Therese.
Before either party can give in to the magnetic feelings fated to draw them together, each must find a way
to free themselves from the force field of the men in their lives.
Carol’s marriage to an emotionally remote husband (Kyle Chandler), has been on the brink of collapse for some time.
Therese has a boyfriend (Jake Lacy), who has been on the brink of proposing marriage for some time.
In a not-so-innocent attempt to run away from their problems – though they kid themselves otherwise – Carol and Therese impetuously embark on a road trip with no particular destination in mind.
The mere fact a relationship will take hold (and then, take over) the lives of two women may seem rather ho-hum by 2016 standards.
However, writer-director Todd Haynes (working from the seminal novel The Price of Salt, penned by bestselling author Patricia Highsmith under a pseudonym more than 60 years ago) keeps his film anchored by the heavy moral suppression that underpinned American life in the 1950s.
In the wrong hands, the changing plights and shifting convictions of the two protagonists could have been deemed the stuff of high-end soap operas.
Thankfully, there’s no chance of that happening here with the achingly precise (and unexpectedly poignant) performances of Blanchett and Mara never once missing the mark.