Muscala’s review published on Letterboxd:
The kind of delicate romance so vividly rendered that watching the film feels like an invasion of privacy. This is human connection distilled to the smallest of actions- a glance, a shoulder touch more intimate than it needed to be. Slowly unfolding romance films like this are a bit of a soft spot for me, the Before trilogy and In the Mood for Love make up some of my all time favorites.
In those and in Carol watching two people feel each other out is the heart and soul of the film and as in In the Mood for Love this is a story about a relationship with inherent complications. The 50s period setting feels like an invisible barrier, rarely more than implied but always in the back of your mind and theirs. Therese (Rooney Mara) is a store clerk that catches the eye of a wealthy older woman Christmas shopping. Carol (Cate Blanchett) is a soon to be divorced mother of one that learn has had at least female lover in her past.
A handful of charged meetings led by Carol turns into a road trip after she finds out her husband is pursuing sole custody based on her sexual "digression". This trip is kept from Carol's husband and a point of contention between Therese and her boyfriend who calls this a crush that has put her in a trance. The trip brings them closer and closer before finally bringing them together romantically on New Year's Eve.
The romance can't last with the custody battle on the horizon so Carol leaves in the middle of the night, leaving her former lover Abbey to escort Therese home. From there the film really lets you steep in the effects of ending the relationship on both of them. Their reunion which we unknowingly see at the start of the film seemingly ends poorly but the stunning final POV shot in the oak room that closes the film ends on a note of hope that maybe reconnection is possible after all.
Blanchett and Mara are some of our best working actresses and turn in marvelous performances. They have wonderful chemistry and bring to life the hesitation between these two people that turns to something more. The grainy cinematography is gorgeous, scenes like the snowy Christmas tree purchase or the closing scene are stunning. The strings heavy score is another effective aspect applied liberally throughout. Basically this is really close to perfect, I loved it.