Carol ★★★★

Watched on Netflix

Already after a few minutes it was clear to me that "Carol" would become a special film, so captivating was the exquisitely brought atmosphere of the 1950s on the screen, so elegiac and elegant the staging, so intimate and meaningful every look and every gesture.

Todd Haynes thus delivers a film that has been decelerated in the best possible way, which seems to have far more in common with the golden era of film than the noticeably faster works of recent years, but which also emancipates it lastingly from comparable works, far removed from the fact that the focus here is on same-sex love, for despite the fact that the conditions were actually far worse in the past and that such "behaviour" is scandalous, Haynes uses this fact merely as a dramaturgical driving force for his round dance, but otherwise works out very nicely how normal and natural the two ladies act together, in such a way that he doesn't explicitly underline the "normality", but rather doesn't make a fuss about the matter itself, which could hardly have been solved more elegantly.

Accordingly, the director refrains from staging "Carol" as a scandal film - a temptation that less capable directors might rather have succumbed to - and concentrates entirely on the mutual relationship between the two women, because while the eponym Carol seems to be used to getting what she wants, Therese gives the clearly more reserved part and at first seems shy, almost frightened, while in the course of the two-hour film she undergoes a noticeable change and sustainably emancipates herself when it comes to following her own desires and ideas and no longer thinking of bending in favour of expectations and demands coming from outside.

Accordingly, besides the love story in the foreground, which becomes more and more dramatic, it's also a character drama and last but not least in Therese's case an almost typical coming-of-age story against an unusual background. In general, the setting plays a not insignificant role and contributes to the smoldering, nostalgic, sometimes melancholic atmosphere, so that far away from the unagitated staging, it becomes clear what a scandal the book "Salt and its Prize", which was published in 1952 by Patricia Highsmith under the pseudonym Claire Morgan and which served as the basis for the six times Oscar nominated movie, must have been.

With all the elegiac images, the intimate miniatures, the glances and encounters between Therese and Carol staged with a great deal of finesse, the emotional outbursts also carry far more weight, with Carol actress Cate Blanchett being responsible for them, to get completely out of herself in these few moments and to strip off the façade of the sensually self-confident femme fatale, while Rooney Mara has the rare gift of conveying a whole range of thoughts and feelings without words, so that the two women complement each other excellently not only with regard to the romance depicted in the film.

Far away from the two dominating main actresses at least Kyle Chandler knows how to make a name for himself as Carol's husband and delivers a multi-faceted picture of anger, frustration, (self-)doubt and powerlessness, which might quite aptly capture the conflicting emotional states of such a rejected man, whereas Sarah Paulson delivers her usual routine performance, but in the context of the film doesn't get any comparably memorable or demanding scenes.

Only words of praise for Carol, you might think, but despite all the finesse of the staging, the story is a bit too frayed, too episodic for me to be able to be completely thrilled, because after Carol decides to turn her back on her home and start a kind of road trip together with Therese, the movie takes a bit too long in the small scenes of a only fragmentarily depicted journey, while the uncommonly calm narrative tone, despite all the crackling tension and an intense atmosphere, unfortunately also brings some small lengths with it, which doesn't cloud the overall impression noticeably, but shouldn't go unmentioned.

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