Carol ★★★★½

In the wrong hands, a film like Carol could have come across as schmaltzy and heavy-handed. It could have easily been sensationalised, bogged down with a lot of unnecessary drama. Luckily, Director Todd Haynes with the help of a strong script from Phyllis Nagy, instead crafts an elegant, restrained and border-line whimsical journey into the relationship of distressed ex-housewife Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) and aspiring photographer/shop girl Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara).

The worst I could have to say about this film is that it didn’t create a visceral emotional experience for me. I didn’t emote the characters heart-ache for each other and I didn’t exhibit any large mood swings into either the realm of joy or sorrow. Instead, I simply sat there and let it all wash over me. As it turns out, this isn’t actually a negative. This film isn’t about over-dramatics or emotional manipulation. It is about mood, tone and sensuality. Films like this can often confront people, put them off-guard because of the innate level of pretension involved in meticulously crafting something that is basically art. Carol avoids this because of its earnestness. It’s honesty. It, like its characters, bares all and it is, in many different ways, exquisite.

Romantically shot by Edward Lachman at his career-best, a truly beautiful soundtrack by Carter Burwell and with its 50s setting lovingly recreated; on a technical level, Carol is near-flawless. In particular the gorgeous costume design is a stand-out. Honestly, Therese Belivet, I’m hunting you down for that coat. Well, that’s if I don’t smother myself in Carol’s excessive, elegant furs first. Each costume, each piece of set-dressing is meticulously chosen to paint a picture about these two intriguing characters and their magnetic allure to one another.

This palpable, undeniable attraction is only made all the more real by some truly powerful performances from our two leading ladies. Rooney Mara inhabits every stage of Therese Belivet’s coming of age. From unsure, quiet artistic type to ignited, passionate lover. But, most importantly, she acts as our proxy. She perfectly mimics our own reaction and draw to the whimsical, classy and broken figure that is Carol Aird. Needless to say, Cate Blanchett is the epitome of class and absolutely knocks this out of the park. She is enigmatic and alluring, inviting yet distant, strong yet vulnerable. She emits a raw sensual energy that permeates throughout the entire film. She is everything that she needs to be and more. She is the film. She is Carol.

If slow, deliberately paced films aren’t your cup of tea (It’s ok, I have to be in the right mood too) then Carol may not be the perfect evening for you. But if you are a fan of cinema at its finest, impeccably crafted with an intriguing tale, spellbinding performances and a truly artistic sensibility then you can’t go wrong with Carol.

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