Carol ★★★★

Often when a film attempts to capture the deep affections of the human heart, a desperate need for exposition is anchored upon each passing scene, to reinforce the sense of grandiose that is felt, to ‘justify’ the spark that is charged between those within the relationship. When such a premise is placed upon the hands of outstanding talent, then such contrivances would not a scathing mark on the overall experience, but most often, films take on such an approach, overwhelming the subtlety and grace that would normally be found in such relationships, thus damaging the fragile core of the film.

Carol, under the gentle craftsmanship of Todd Haynes, pulls away from such tactics, pinpointing focus on the aching and curious hearts of its female characters, but allowing the human and romantic mode of expression to justify their character arcs. Haynes demonstrates profound depth in the act of touch, whether it may be a hand resting gently on a shoulder, or bodies interlocking tightly on a small bed, we feel the impact and the development of each action, characters evoke a naturalism that is remarkably demanding of us, actively drawing us closer to their warming hearts, finding ourselves eventually surrendering to the emotion that fills the air.

As for the premise, it is far from complicated; a department store clerk, and also an aspiring photographer, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), locks eyes with an older woman across the room, Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), developing from a casual exchange towards something grander, their lives intersecting more so than what they had initially anticipated, acting upon their instinct as evident from each other’s presence that a sense of comfort palpable. Therese, a woman in search for a fitting direction, finds opportunity to explore with Carol, slowly exposing the better aspect of herself that for so long have been suppressed. Carol on the other hand is enduring through a divorce, a woman who feels out of place in her marriage, but deeply linked by the daughter that she and her husband, Harge Aird (Kyle Chandler), has brought upon this world. Carol finds a sense of comfort in Therese’s company, she actively pursues to progress the relationship further, knowing that with her, fulfillment is felt, even if only temporarily.

It is here, a relationship progressing, a couple desperate to find a moment of intimacy and exploration in revealing the truth behind their relationship; the film’s second act shows their relationship advance in their shared road trip, Therese along for the ride while Carol in need for a desperate escape from the crumbling marriage that is surrounds her; Haynes’s primary ingredient is subtlety and patience in the development of their relationship, it refuses to deliver their affection for one another with a condescending simplicity that would tarnish the integrity of their relationship, instead the complexity is drawn to the surface, it reveals itself to us and we are left with the accumulated pieces to reassemble ourselves, a picture that we feel is fitting to our perspectives of the characters.

Carol paints itself the glamorous but suppressive era of the 1950s in a manner that is visually detailed and stunning, Haynes refuses to let its characters be morally judged for their ‘faults’ against society, remaining within the intimate heartaches between established relationships. The film is a wonder to the eyes, seeing the sensational costume and production design existing in motion is a fabulous feast, I cannot help but be floored with every opportunity I find Carol in a coat. Pairing such visuals with a musical score that heightens the emotion but remaining personal, palpable enough to add texture to the experience but never reaching a patronizing state that would dampen the film’s intentions; Carter Burwell was undoubtedly deserving of his award recognition, and possibly even extending itself to a win.

Carol may not fill the ambitious expectations I had for the film, and without a doubt, gaps are still present towards some passages of the film, I did not find myself as emotionally arrested as I would from a product that aims to capture the tenderness and desperation of the human heart; the film however is close to earning such potentials, and through a technical perspective, the film cannot be denied of its efficiency. Not a slice of perfection but undoubtedly deserving as a contender of the Best Picture race at the Academy Awards, a painful snub if there was ever one.

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