“Oh Carol,” Chuck Berry once sang, “don’t let him steal your heart away.” Or her, in this case.
Adapted from a Patricia Highsmith novel, Carol is the story of an affair between two women in 1950s New York. They’re meticulously well played by Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett, who deserves an Oscar for this pitch-perfect performance (but will no doubt lose to Meryl Streep for her five-minute cameo in Suffragette). They’re ably supported by Kyle Chandler and Sarah Paulson, who reprises her American Horror Story: Asylum role of “lesbian”.
Beautifully directed by Todd Haynes, the film looks like a dream (and by that I mean it looks gorgeous, rather than full of school teachers with reptile heads). The screen seems to glow in muted greens, with yearning shots through car windows and a lingering focus on the smallest of touches and glances. Every single aspect works in harmony, from hair and costume to photography and lighting. Aesthetically, the film is as flawless as Cate Blanchett’s face.
But without momentum or incident, the drama is somewhat held back by the joylessness of the central relationship; a problem shared by many romantic movies, which could easily be resolved by simply showing us the couple actually enjoying each other’s company. But what it lacks in pace, it makes up for in sensitivity, sensuality and beauty. An alluring combination of direction, design and acting, this is one Carol that won’t make you despise Christmas.