Fish’s review published on Letterboxd:
I am sad to admit, that 'Carol' had been pushed to the bottom of the pile, and almost forgotten about. After my indulgence of a host of the Oscar nominees in quick succession earlier this year, I had kinda forgotten to watch newish releases. So, a day off, and I was free to indulge this period piece, with a modern love affair twist.
We open, on 1950's New York, following the life of young shop assistant and budding photographer Therese (Mara). She seem's content enough in a stable job, a stable apartment and a stable relationship with Richard (Lacy). Although there seems no real affection on Therese's part, there seem's a love, even if she is not in love, with Richard. Their world is turned upside down, and flung into chaos upon the chance meeting at Therese's work place, with Carol (Blanchett). A stuttering relationship, held together all by excitement and allure, Therese and Carol's lives, would never be the same again.
The film, seem's to flip at the half way point. Upon Carol's abandonment of Therese amongst scandal, we have a reverse perspective. The first half of the film, we mainly focus upon Therese, her relationships, hopes, dreams and jobs, and the burgeoning relationship with Carol. When this switch materialises, the focus of our attention, becomes Carol, and her struggle through a turbulent divorce, and prejudice and oppression from society. This change in dynamic, although appealing from a story-line perspective, is a little jarring, as, for me, the pace was sent permanently askew.
The cast, and costumes, are what to truly take from this film. Everything starts off at reserved and austere, then screaming full pelt to glamorous and outlandish. The performances of Blanchett and Chandler, both represent this perfectly. With their agonising relationship of someone who fiercely loves his partner, and doesn't understand the concept of homosexuality, to someone who is feeling stifled, contained and unable to forge a life she not only wants for herself, but needs. The emotions on the roller-coaster left little to the imagination, and for me, was one of the strongest pieces of chemistry between the cast.
Carol and Therese's chemistry, was meant to be the main focus of the film, but was forever being sidetracked by this overburdening marriage, like a pink elephant in the room with them continually. When the script allowed, Mara and Blanchett flourished. It was an often awkward romance to watch, but they persevered, and it was a relationship you could believe. I just wish that they had dedicated more of the film to it, rather than waste time with an ailing marriage. Yes, that side of the film was solid, but there were surely many obstacles to same sex partners back then, that it did not need this added distraction.
Although I didn't fall for Carol, it is a strong cast, who deliver strong performances. For me, the plot was too muddled, and didn't know who to focus upon. I will not argue that not only the cinematography was grand, but the costumes grandiose. It is a film, that is a little bit too much style, and not quite enough substance. Haynes had a real chance here, to make a genuine statement, and moving piece of cinema. Instead, we get a beautiful art piece at first glance, who's paint seems to be peeling upon scrutiny, the closer you get. A perfect juxtaposition to the story Carol, was trying to tell.