Mr. DuLac’s review published on Letterboxd:
Just when it can't get any worse, you run out of cigarettes.
Despite all the praise this film was getting I still was not expecting to like it as much as I did. I think maybe it was the trailers that did nothing for me causing me to have mediocre expectations. Little did I know that almost every aspect of this film was perfect.
I guess you'd first have to start off with the writing. I'm not sure if it's Phyllis Nagy's screenplay or Patricia Highsmith's novel that deserves most of the credit for the characters of this film because they are just outstanding. Seriously incredibly well written characters. I imagine that credit needs to go to both writers here.
Most of the film is seen through the eyes of Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) as a young woman, a bit naive perhaps, as she starts to discover who she really is through a romantic involvement with an older woman. This could have been played so many ways, but her naivety isn't played up to ridiculous levels but instead kept to very realistic levels. She knows what she is getting into, but just doesn't realize ALL of the ramifications it has which makes it harder for her to understand the actions of the one she loves.
The other woman, Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) is an even better written character, if not for the simple fact that she is more experienced in life and therefor very much more complex. It's fun to see characters that stand their moral ground in the face of prejudice, but unless you're telling a story that takes place during a time of social change it becomes much more complicated to stand your moral ground in times of intolerance. This is a story like that. Carol's decisions are not black and white, there's grey areas where doing what should be morally right has consequences that you would not be able to live with.
Some of the other characters in the film, like Carol's husband (Kyle Chandler), could have been easily written as villains. It's not easy writing a character that is so completely wrong in their beliefs without going overboard into ridiculous villainous territory, but this film pulls it off. Some of the people you meet here are so completely morally wrong, but they are still believable characters.
The performances go from good to down right fantastic. The complexity of Carol Aird is exactly the type of role that Cate Blanchett excels at. A character that has a multitude of emotional aspects, but is only allowed to show a small number of them in public. Her meetings with Therese have a lot going on in the background with most of it depending on Blanchett to pull it off with or without dialogue.
Now I have to admit that with all the love Rooney Mara gets, I sorta don't get it... except here. Here she was great as Therese, she really was. I haven't hated her in other films, I just haven't been blown away by any of it like others, but her performance here is easily the best I've ever seen her. Really the character of Therese could have been tricky, maybe another actress would have made her look like a simpleton or whiny not being able to capture it as wonder at experiencing love for the first time. Mara really pulled it off.
So yeah... I was sorta blown away by Carol... and kinda wonder why this wasn't nominated for Best Picture especially over some of the choices that are there.