Carol ★★★★★

“What a strange girl you are.”

Made of crystal and suppressed tears, shot eternally through windows and mirrors and half-closed doors, Todd Haynes‘ ‘Carol’ is a love story that starts at a trickle, swells gradually to a torrent, and finally bursts the banks of your heart. A beautiful film in every way, immaculately made, and featuring two pristine actresses glowing across rooms and tousled bedclothes at each other like beacons of tentative, unspoken hope, the film is based on a novel by ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’s’ Patricia Highsmith. But ‘Carol’ is not that story, nor its cinematic adaptation. It is not dark and it is not cutting. Instead it is an aching, pining film that layers the simplicity of this love affair with such strata of feeling that the story eventually becomes the essence of every affair ever, gay or straight, in which true, luminous love has been denied by circumstance.

Haynes’ restraint makes the story feel less hormonal and hysterical, and more timeless and universal. In this he’s abetted by Edward Lachman‘s fantastic compositions, so often putting the people in separate frames within the frame, or shooting those remarkable faces (the film is a symphony of cheekbones) behind windows or other reflective/transparent surfaces. Special note must also go to Carter Burwell‘s wonderful score, to Randall Poster‘s choice soundtrack cuts, and to the moment at which the score and a radio song conflate during one dreamy sequence speeding through a tunnel and the result is peculiar and sublime.

There is a lot more going on in ‘Carol’ than the love story, or rather the love story is not only about its two exothermic participants. Kyle Chandler, as Carol’s husband Harge, is remarkably solid in an unforgiving role, and Sarah Paulson as Abby, the childhood friend and Carol’s ex-lover, again makes us wonder just why it is that we only ever see her in supporting turns. But you cannot take this film away from its two leads, who beneath the sparse dialogue, seem to be ever communicating in a language of looks and gestures and sideways glances, a secret lovers’ morse code blinking out between them like the light at the end of Daisy’s pier. Mara is the revelation, investing Therese with a very gentle witchiness that makes Carol’s description of her as “flung out of space" all the more appropriate - she is a little bit of an alien. Blanchett is stunning, going from a magnificent creature of secret smiles and sly winks, to a less lustered, ground-down version in a subtle but heartrending evocation of a woman trying to suppress her most vital instincts. Like a person with whom you’ve fallen for instantly and hopelessly, ‘Carol’ shimmers and bewitches until it feels that, like Therese at a crucial climactic moment, you could be walking toward it, entranced and lovelorn, forever.

Ron liked this review