Director: Todd Haynes
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy, Sarah Paulson, John Magaro, Cory Michael Smith, Kevin Crowley
Runtime: 1 hr 59 mins
Rating: R21 (Homosexual Theme)
Released By: Shaw
Official Website: http://carolfilm.com
Opening Day: 24 December 2015
Synopsis: New York 1952. Carol is elegant, sophisticated, wealthy and married. Therese is just starting out in life, unsure of who she wants to be. A chance encounter in a Manhattan department store sparks an extraordinary friendship between these two women. Carol is caught in a bitter divorce and a custody battle for her daughter, but finds herself mesmerised by this mysterious, quiet beauty. Finding herself alone on Christmas Day, Carol invites Therese to escape on a spontaneous road trip into the heartland of America. It is during this magical journey that the two fall hopelessly and desperately in love. But this is 1952 and Carol is risking everything for this relationship that defies society's conventions. Based on the best-selling novel by Patricia Highsmith, author of 'Strangers on a Train' and 'The Talented Mr Ripley', Carol is a powerful romance fueled by the suspense, danger and exhilaration of forbidden love.
After sitting though the entire 118 minutes of this Todd Haynes directed drama about a young aspiring photographer and her relationship with an older woman going through a difficult divorce, you may wonder what the big deal is about. After all, a large part of this film involves restrained expressions and suppressed feelings between the two female leads. If you’re not in the mood to indulge your senses, you may want to sit this one out and opt for something louder and funnier, something littered with more action and laughs instead.
Call it the female version of Brokeback Mountain (2005) if you will, this gorgeously lensed film is an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel “The Price of Salt”. While we are not as well read as we hoped to be, one thing we know – that things were very much different 60 years ago where there was no Internet and social media to air your views and stand up for what you believe are an individual’s ‘human rights’. That explains why the protagonists in the film are not your vocal LGBT community that we are familiar with today.
The plot starts off fairly simple – a temporary staff at a department store in Manhattan (Rooney Mara) is approached by a glamorous older woman (Cate Blanchett) who purchases a model train set for her daughter as a Christmas gift. The two form an immediate attraction (you know how they say feelings do not require logical explanations) and begin a romantic relationship. Of course, like any other relationship, this is not without its ups and downs. Introduce elements like secrets, a divorce, a fight for a young girl’s custody and the occasional emotional outbursts.
Haynes, an independent filmmaker, has films like Velvet Goldmine (1998), Far From Heaven (2002) and I’m Not There (2007) under his belt. The 54 year old, who is openly gay, is known for exploring themes of identity and sexuality in his works – and his latest film is no different. Through the characters, we see how personalities are put at odds with the perceived norms of the society they live in. At times, this tension becomes subversively dangerous that is screaming to explode in the open.
This is clearly Blanchett (The Monuments Man, Cinderella) and Mara’s (The Girl with the Golden Tattoo, Side Effects) show. The two women have perfect on screen chemistry, having you believe that they are any other couple going through the best and worst of times. Both are getting critical acclaim and you can expect to see their names in the nominee lists at the upcoming awards season. Blanchett is effortlessly classy, and the unspoken power and authority in her conceals the vulnerability we can identify with. Mara portrays the fresh faced character with ease, putting in the right amount of emotions at the appropriate moments. For that, the 30 year old won the Best Actress at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
Pundits can also expect nominations in the art direction (kudos to the team for the attention to details and the number of props to bring out the era’s look), costume design (one can only imagine the effort the team put into deciding what is donned by Blanchett and Mara in the film) and cinematography (Edward Lachman was also responsible for 1999’s The Virgin Suicides and 2006’s A Prairie Home Companion, both of which were visually stunning) categories.
We need not say more – if you’re in the mood to appreciate the finer aspects of human emotions through a visually appealing medium, then this is one film you should watch.
(A quietly powerful film that reminds you how raw – and real - human emotions can be)
Review by John Li