reed’s review published on Letterboxd:
It's funny how much a single face can express (or suppress) so much loneliness, frustration, and loss. How the world can be crumbling around you as you glance - maybe smile - at a stranger in the crowd. How their worlds can be crumbling at the same time, and you'd never know it.
As someone who has felt like my world has been crumbling for a couple weeks at least, I guess I've gotten good at coming on to zoom calls for class or meetings and smiling through to the camera, trying to forget everything that's been going on in my life... because maybe if I don't show it I won't actually feel it.
I suppose it was the same thing for my sexuality, a couple years back. Realizing who I was, trying to suppress or deny it, trying to mask it. I still have to mask it to certain people. It's not something I like to think of "part of my personality", but I guess I have to think about it so much that it has become so. It's so odd that love can come at such a cost; that's a vague statement, but Todd Hayne's Carol examines it from every different lens; sometimes quite literally. The very first scene alone is not really the first scene at all, but is somewhere lost in the midst of all the conflict and the loneliness.
Carol and Therese both feel extremely lonely yes, and they certainly feel isolated, but the pain in the first scenes is numbing, not piercing; like the poster, it feels like both characters are living their lives in a blur, trying to suppress their pain and angst. There are scenes where I felt so angry and so frustrated; and then realized that it was the exact same feelings I've been experiencing in my life right now. Completely drowning all my thoughts in sweet fakeness, completely numbing myself so that I can just get what I need to do done, whatever i'll fail at it doesn't matter.
As the plot progresses and Carol and Therese open up to each other, and embrace each other in all ways possible, we feel that pain not disappear, but somehow become balanced; like someone is helping to carry it with us. Both carry weights - Carol in her marriage and Therese with her job and passion future ahead - and both needed someone else to truly help them with that. What's so beautiful is that the relationship, even while being comforting, feels entirely natural. With their time apart, it is empty, but you can sense closure, and the feeling that they can only take so much time apart from each other.
The ending, then, is a sweet, completely earnest, beautiful, hug. It swallows all the pains and frustrations of life, and replaces them in one, calm, accepting, smile. Carol herself said she has no idea what she wants for herself; but in that smile there is a glow of readiness for what is to come, whether it be rain or shine. And at the very least, both Carol and Therese silently acknowledge, they will get through it together.
It's so tough to formulate words for reviews right now, so I'll just note that I haven't even done Carol justice at all here. Through all the turbulence in my life right now, though, I can say one thing for sure; it is movies like Carol that remind me of the power art can have to center and embrace us.