Todd Haynes’ adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1950s lesbian romance novel is an elegant exercise in visual storytelling. Carol is aesthetically nuanced, lensed with layered graininess and often obscured or muted by windows and reflections. Though thin in narrative, a single frame transcends story, with imagery becoming subtext for characters’ emotional states and positioning us as outsiders.
Therese (Rooney Mara) is a young, adrift department store clerk living in New York when she first encounters Carol (Cate Blanchett). Eyes locking across a crowd, their magnetism transpires into a passionate love affair.
Carol appears to us like a divine being, projected by Blanchett’s graceful demeanour and captivating presence. Mara is also potent in her role, mirroring our own infatuation with Carol from Therese’s gaze. However, Carol is concealing personal heartache, torn between desire for what’s true to herself and her responsibility for what’s accepted as customary for a woman, wife and mother in this era. She’s chastised for her relationship with Therese in a complicated divorce with husband Harge (Kyle Chandler), an issue which is ventilated, yet regrettably not fully explored.
Carol is instead dedicated to capturing the magic of this intimacy and perhaps it will compel you to feel it too.