Love stories are film staples. They can be found in any decade on film. It's rare, however, to find a love story that rings so achingly wonderful as Carol. Helmed by Todd Haynes (I'm Not There) and featuring two incredible performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, Carol is a timeless love story destined for the Academy Awards.
Carol centers on the love story between two women in 1950s New York. Therese Belivet (Mara) is a young, brown-haired, wide-eyed girl working at a department store. Unsure of life and relatively innocent, Therese meets Carol Aird (Blanchett), a glamorous blonde woman that dazzles in fur coats and red lips. Their connection across the department store sales desk is instant. You can feel the electricity between them even from across the room. Instantly intrigued, Therese takes the opportunity to mail back Carol's gloves which she accidentally leaves behind at the store. Their interactions increase from there to dinner to home visits to even more.
The chemistry between Blanchett and Mara is phenomenal. So much of this love story is told strictly through their looks at one another. The filmmaking excellently compliments this by being slow and deliberate. The camera often lingers as the two characters do on one another. Windows or doorframes, adding to the sense of secrecy and hidden truths, visually obscure scenes.
A forbidden romance between an older, more experienced person and a younger, innocent person is routinely seen but rarely is it seen between two lesbians in a time when this love was incredibly taboo. This is highlighted well by Carol's soon-to-be-ex-husband Harge (played wonderfully by Kyle Chandler). Even though he knows his wife's true passions, he refuses to accept their separation and uses their daughter Rindi and her past transgressions to strong-arm her into doing whatever he wishes. Chandler plays the character with a mix of fear and determination that lets you see exactly what's motivating Harge to act so callously.
That said, the stars here are clearly Rooney and Blanchett. Rooney imbues Therese with the right mix of innocence and desire. She's a dead ringer for Audrey Hepburn and stuns even in her more demure, muted costumes. She makes it clear that Therese, no matter how hard she tries, is magnetically drawn to Carol no matter the situation. Blanchett is sure to be nominated for an Academy Award for her turn as Carol. Her acting is quiet but powerful. Carol is clearly a woman who has been trying to conceal her true desires for her entire life but strong enough to finally say "enough".
Set in a time when homosexuality was considered deviant behavior, Carol is a beautiful and searing story of unspoken desires. It even ends with a hopeful message, something that is harder to achieve well but endlessly more satisfying.