Carol

Carol ★★★★½

Carol is like a film from that would be playing regularly in the bedroom from "2001: A Space Odyssey" A pristine cold austere exterior with warm mercurial interiors. Similar to the constraints of the social mores clashing with the characters emotions it makes for a captivating rich, moody, and breathtaking experience. An inscrutably beautiful painting with gilded edges preserved behind an austere pane of glass. Exquisitely nuanced down to the smallest piece of minutiae.

Based on Patricia Highsmith's novel from 1952 “The Price of Salt” it recounts how two women Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) and Therese Belivit (Rooney Mara) began a forbidden romance in New York City in the winter of that year.

Shot on 16mm film by Edward Lachman there is a meticulous point about how every object is designed and placed to fit a unique mood. Every shot, camera setup and lighting are exactly where they need to be. The scary part is that it looks so effortless. The reserved and understated nature of the piece adds to how shackled the characters feel by their circumstances. Unable to articulate, never mind act upon their feelings. Even though Therese's camera may linger on Carol more Lachman's camera is certainly more interested in Therese. Rooney Mara is simply incredible here. She is styled and photographed in a way that just oozes with classical beauty. Every breathtaking shot in this film has her in it. It's a film about self-discovery for Therese. Discovering her calling, her sexual appetites and herself as a person and being given the freedom to do so.

Haynes has brought his distinct idiosyncrasies and has made something that fits his mould perfectly. In many ways what he's done here is create his sweeping vistas out of intimate close-ups, finely detailed costumes and note perfect interior décors. You could almost hang every frame of this film in a museum it's so beautifully refined. As much as he's tried to pay homage to the works of Douglas Sirk and David Lean's “Brief Encounter” this is entirely Haynes' film. The best comparison you could make is that it feels like an episode of "Mad Men". In both its designs and it's how it presents its characters and the narrative. Everything is left to bubble underneath the surface with a delicate and carefully controlled level of subtlety. Every single gesture is crucially important. Every background character is given a purpose. It is alluded to in the film when a character explains that the film works because it is juxtaposing what they are saying with how they are really thinking and feeling. A nod to perhaps how Haynes wants the film to be appreciated.

Carol possesses the strengths of a Carter Burwell score that's perhaps not been present in any other film he's composed for. I've always found him very transient, never allowing for movement to add energy or gravitas to his pieces often like how Alexandre Desplat composing with such a fleeting innocuousness that gets on your floats away rather than gets under your skin. Their scores are often never cohesive though overall I thought Desplat's score for "The Imitation Game" was a step above everything else he's done for the most part. "Carol" is kind of in the same vein for Burwell, it's a confident score for him. His pieces land, he knows how to layer instruments on top of each other in a way that compliments the piece and scenes in the film. Perhaps that's why the Academy decided to nominate him this year. Well deserved.

The performances in Carol are astounding. Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacey and Sarah Paulson never put a foot wrong under Haynes' watch. "Carol" has significant artistic and cultural importance because of its subject matter, Haynes' elegant direction and how gracefully crafted every frame is. "Carol" well and truly is a masterpiece.

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