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A gorgeous, subtle and beautifully crafted film!
The first thought that comes to mind after watching Carol is; "Absolutely beautifully well crafted". Carol is a gorgeous, subtly ground-breaking and an exquisite work of art rippling with mid-century melancholy. The film is a smorgasbord of edible fifties design, and finds meaning in the smallest of details.
Cate Blanchett plays Carol,a struggling woman in the middle of a divorce, who falls in love with a young department store assistant; Therese, played by Rooney Mara. Therese is selling Carol a toy train as a Christmas present for her daughter. It's large so it must be delivered; and accidentally on purpose; Carol leaves her gloves behind on the counter. Before too long, Therese is invited to Carol's lavish home upstate, but her desperate husband (Kyle Chandler) turns up uninvited, and the Airds argue bitterly in the driveway.
The acting throughout the film is superb. Cate Blanchett navigates the character of Carol Aird with a subtlety that is little short of phenomenal. Her hauteur and elegance matched with fear and self-doubt is utterly right, as we see Blanchett continually touching her face and stroking her hair as she speaks to Therese: a "poker tell" of desire. Roony Mara's Therese Belivet has something alien and blank about her, like a photo sheet not yet set in developing fluid. She is doe-eyed and callow, submissive yet watchful. Mara's rigidity as an actress is completely ideal in conveying this, in the sullen set she gives Therese's lips, the way she hunches in corners and seems scared and perplexed by every new feeling. The great Sarah Paulson gives a smart supporting performance as Carol's easy-going confidante and former lover Abby. And Kyle Chandler is superb as her furious left-behind-husband Harge.
Carol is beautifully shot, and many of the most stunning sequences are inside cars, when they're alone, up close as they flirt, finding a symphony of reflections and hues bouncing off windscreens, thrilling to their potential together. The film shows us the restraint, subtlety and mystery with which gay people in the 1950s could manage their lives with dignity. But it also shows the depression and self-control into which Carol has had to retreat and from which she is now defiantly emerging. Blanchett has a scene trying to reason with Chandler's Harge in front of their lawyers, which lays bare the dismay of their lives so honestly it leaves you breathless. Once we've come towards the end of the film, and hear Carol's next act of pleading, it's cut short after the three most powerful words in the English language, delivered by an actress who couldn't possibly say them with more meaning. And that scene, like the film, is absolutely stunning!