Set in 1950s New York, this lush period piece is based on Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel The Price of Salt about a young shop girl who stumbles into a tumultuous love affair with a wealthy older woman.
During one of her shifts at a large department store, Therese (Mara) finds herself transfixed by the sophisticated Carol (played to perfection by Blanchett), who asks for assistance in finding a Christmas gift for her four-year-old daughter. The women are instantly drawn to each other and the film tracks Therese’s journey from dissatisfaction with both her job and her dull fiancé to professional and sexual fulfillment.
Cinematically, Carol is a delight: from the atmospheric score by Carter Burwell to the impeccable set and costume design, Haynes’ beautifully shot feature is alive with seductive ‘50s realism. The two characters’ infatuation is masterfully conveyed through close-up shots and visual clues, mirroring their constant exchange of charged and lingering glances. But for all its intoxicating aesthetics, Carol also delivers a lot of substance.
While on the most obvious level, Carol is a voluptuous romance, a closer look reveals that the notion of personal autonomy is really what makes this feature stand out. Carol, in the midst of a custody battle with her ex-husband, exclaims that she would rather make custodial sacrifices than “live against [her] grain” and deny her past affairs with women. Therese, too, learns to live as a fully autonomous woman and undergoes a transformation from a meek aspiring photographer to a self-sufficient individual capable of making her own decisions.
At times, Carol is at danger of descending into melodrama but it is precisely this larger-than-life theatricality that makes Blanchett’s Carol so attractive to both Therese and the audience. Nonetheless, Hayne's film is an intelligent, elegant, and absolutely hypnotic feature with two stellar leading performances. It is certainly one of the highlights of this year’s London Film Festival.
|What||Carol film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
27 Nov 15 – 29 Feb 16, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here to go to the film's IMDB page|