Director: Todd Haynes
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara
Watching Carol is like falling in love. An intoxicating, all-consuming, forbidden love that smells of cigarette smoke and lingering perfume. This adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s lesbian classic The Price of Salt will leave you walking out of the cinema longing for the cold streets of 50s Manhattan and wondering if you will ever forget the taste of Cate Blanchett on your lips.
Yes, it’s a love story – but it’s not a happy one. Our two lovers, Carol (Cate Blanchett), a melancholy divorced mother, and Therese (Rooney Mara), an aspiring photographer, fall into each other’s lives as Carol purchases a train set for her daughter for Christmas at the department store where Therese works. Their attraction and infatuation begins there, with Carol “forgetting” her leather gloves and Therese diligently mailing them back to her. Their affection remains mute for the majority of the film, being told through delicate cinematography, which highlights every parted lip and stolen glance. The attention to fine detail borders on erotic – perfectly pinned scarves, frosty boulevards and lipstick-marked cigarettes heighten the sense of distant romance.
Each woman is delicately broken in her own way – fragilities which are perfectly portrayed by both actresses. Mara’s severe performance of Therese gives a sense of blankness, like a photograph waiting to be developed, as she rejects her steady boyfriend to explore the new feelings and dark places Carol takes her. Blanchett on the other hand portrays Carol’s fierce love for her daughter, lust for Therese, and the self-control which takes her to near exhaustion, as she is penned in by the institutional homophobia and sexism of the decade. All come with subtle gestures and brilliantly detailed acting.
While this film certainly isn’t for everyone (I know many “dudes” will be turned off by the 50s-highclass-lesbian trifecta), you should you have an inkling – persist and you will find a movie steeped in tenderness and melancholy, and shot so beautifully that you will find yourself in love with Manhattan, and in love with Carol.
Words by Caz Bank