Country: UK, USA
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Todd Haynes
Writer: Phyllis Nagy
based on the novel of Patricia Highsmith
Music: Carter Burwell
Cinematography: Edward Lachman
Cory Michael Smith
An eight-year gap from his last feature movie I’M NOT THERE (2007), during which he dabbles in the TV sphere to direct a quintessential five-part miniseries MILDRED PIERCE (2011) starring Kate Winslet, Todd Haynes is back in the groove. Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s pioneering novel THE PRICE OF SALT published in 1952 by screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, who wrote the first draft as early as in 1997, CAROL makes headway as the most audacious and empowering addition to the US queer cinema, notably to the rather barren lesbian territory.
New York, 1952 , Therese Belivet (Mara), a shopgirl whose real interest is photography, meets Carol Aird (Blanchett), an elegant woman who is experiencing an unpleasant divorce with her possessive husband Harge (Chandler). Therese’s presence sheds a light in her life just as hers does in Therese’s. Their romance has been intensified through an itinerant journey they embark on during the new year, but the thorny legal procedure to fight the custody of her young daughter forces Carol to unilaterally put their relationship on hold, an ultimate question remains what a downcast Therese will do when a second chance emerges?
Predominantly, CAROL is an all-around artistic treasure, the incredible period art production, under the low-key, slightly desaturated tint, precisely reconstructs an alluringly sentimental ambience of the era to foreground the exquisite undercurrents experienced by Carol and Therese; the sophistication of Carol’s gorgeous wardrobe and make-up contrasts the self-revealing honesty and consciousness of Therese’s drabber outfits and unadorned countenance; Edward Lachman’s breathtaking cinematography is quaintly evocative to reflect Carol and Therese’s understated emotional orbits, his sleight-of-hand is at its most potent with those shots behind glasses, immaculately sublimates the blurry equivocation of human’s impenetrable sentiments, and the impact multiplies with Carter Burwell’s unobtrusive but permeating score.
The two leading performances are priceless, it is heartfelt restraint versus enigmatic swank, where the unfathomable attraction burgeons mutually, Mara and Blanchett diligently engage in their two-hander, with minute gestures and body languages and expressional finesse. Blanchett is graceful, alluring, and indecisive, the dramatic soliloquy about her resolution of the custody is beyond question one of the highlights of her illustrious career; whereas Mara is stolid on the surface, watchful and unapologetically true to her feelings, more admirably conveys her true grit against the tentacles of a prejudiced society which reaches into every nook and cranny of her and Carol’s lives. In the supporting category, Sarah Paulson as Abby, Carol’s confidant, is the ballast of their perilous affair, apart from an awkward former love identity, which could make the mind-game more intriguing if her role were extended.
An out-and-out victory from Haynes and his cast, CAROL sweeps with virtuosity as an compelling indictment to a jaundiced society and an ode to the undying strength of love, and beckons a bullish prospect for Haynes’ next project, reportedly to be a reunion with another muse Julianne Moore in WONDERSTRUCK, based on the book by Brian Selznick.