Film Review: Carol

The awards season doesn’t fully get under way for another couple of months, but the buzz has already started.  One of the films attracting a lot of attention is Todd Haynes’ Carol, released on Friday, certificate 15.  A romance between two women set in 1950s America, it’s already scooped a couple of awards at Cannes and looks destined to add to its collection.

London Mums’ film critic, Freda Cooper, took plenty of tissues …….

 

The story

The film traces the relationship between the wealthy and sophisticated Carol (Cate Blanchett) and department store assistant Therese (Rooney Mara). Carol is married with a young daughter but also in the throes of divorcing her husband, while the younger Therese has aspirations to be a photographer.  But, this being the 50s, their attraction has to be not just unspoken but a complete secret.

 

The trailer

 

The verdict

If Todd Haynes’ name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, some of his previous work might.  He directed the TV version of the classic Mildred Pierce (2012) and was also behind Far From Heaven (2002), another Fifties set drama with Julianne Moore earning her third Best Actress Oscar nomination.  She eventually won this year for Still Alice.

And in Carol, Haynes continues his love affair with 50s America. In fact, the entire film is something of a labour of love in just about every sense.  The story is beautifully crafted and the photography is exquisite, each frame a little work of art in its own right.  The overall effect is breath taking and breathless all at the same time, so intoxicating that you feel like you’re floating on air.

Its visual impact isn’t just down to the photography.  The clothes, thanks to the brilliance of costume designer Sandy Powell (Cinderella) are immaculate, from Carol’s opulent furs to Therese’s less flamboyant dresses.  The décor reeks of the period as well, right down to the gaudy red and yellow taxi cabs.

 

 

And the performances are truly fabulous.  Blanchett may be getting more attention, but it was Mara who won at Cannes and she’s easily her equal.  The film places huge emphasis on the looks passed between the two women: they have to speak louder than words and there’s two reasons for this.  Firstly, there’s the conventions of the day, when a relationship between two women was completely taboo.  And secondly, the novel on which the film is based, Patricia Highsmith’s The Price Of Salt, is a piece of stream of consciousness: the reader is privy to the characters’ thoughts, thoughts which cannot always be expressed on screen.  It’s a tribute to the skills of both Mara and Blanchett that those lingering looks are not only amazingly eloquent, but also avoid looking posed or artificial.

A word, too, for Kyle Chandler who plays probably the most difficult role in the film, Carol’s husband.  He’s a man pulled in all directions, who feels he has no control of his life.  He still loves his wife, still wants to be married to her but can’t understand or cope with either her preferences or her rejection.   He lashes out, not because he’s a malicious person, but because he can’t see any other way of fighting back and is struggling with having his world turned upside down.

 

 

Mums’ rating: 9/10              Prepare to be overwhelmed, not just by Carol’s emotional heights but the sheer visual beauty of the film.  Haynes is a fine film maker, but he’s moved into another league with this depiction of the extraordinary power of falling in love – how it can upturn your life, make you giddy and yet bring huge joy at the same time.  It’s one of the best films of 2015.  Don’t miss it.

 

Carol is released in cinemas on Friday, 27 November and will be reviewed on Talking Pictures on Thursday, 26th.

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