Carol

Carol ★★★½

I still feel almost exactly the same way about Carol as I did the first time around, it's so beautifully crafted yet just lacking the emotional connection it is evidently striving for.

It finds Todd Haynes revisiting his trademark theme in scrutinising how the core values held by previous generations pressured people to conform to a life deemed socially acceptable. It uses the central same-sex romance between two individuals at different stages (the titular Carol who knows clearly what she wants and the youthful Therese who's still exploring) to portray how hiding their true selves due to societal 'rules' only causes feelings of repression and disillusionment. It's appropriate then that shots through transparent surfaces become a visual motif given how perception is so crucial in such a situation. The sublime recreation of the era nicely reflects this too, the exterior elegance of these people and locations barely covering the sadness lingering beneath.

Both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara provide suitably subtle performances; their characters have a detached quality which can make them seem a little cold, but they manage to convey the conflicted emotions well. Ultimately though, I don't think the chemistry between them is that convincing and the writing doesn't help matters. The scenes meant to display their deep connection are a bit too restricted and subdued, featuring a lot of wistful staring and very little rumination on their actual feelings. I like what it's meant to represent in theory (the cultural disdain for what they are doing making them almost afraid to express themselves), but it comes across as overly stifling instead of poignant or passionate. It's odd considering how successfully Haynes tackled similar ideas in Far from Heaven.

With that said, there is a graceful touch running throughout every frame that is difficult to deny; whether it comes from the measured direction or Carter Burwell's wonderful score or the striking cinematography, it ensures that things remain alluring even as the story falters in places.

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