Scott Bailey’s review published on Letterboxd:
When I finally saw La La Land for the first time recently in front of a packed audience, and when I saw how believable the romance and the chemistry was between the two characters was, or how the film was so engaging that in the instances where there was long silent pauses everyone was so hooked and engaged with the characters that you could literally hear a pin drop, it made me remember that I had not had a night like that in a movie theatre since I saw Todd Haynes' adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's classic novel Carol for the first time.
I really connected with this film and with characters so much and yet I didn't really know why at the time. I loved the way it was shot and acted, and just the rich and stunning textures to this film, but I couldn't pinpoint what it was about this movie that just had me so hooked and riveted with every passing moment or left me feeling speechless walking back home. Watching it again, I think I found this film so emotionally powerful to watch because the film has a subtle, yet passionate message about simply being yourself, and how emotionally damaging it is to conform and force yourself into a lifestyle that conflicts with who you are as a person.
Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara at times feel like the total opposite of each other, Blanchett brings a seemingly assured, cold and distant performance on the surface as Carol and sometimes feels difficult to read, whereas Mara is warm and expressive as Therese, but looks completely unsure of herself. Mara's performance in this felt real to me and every tear she shed in this film just felt believable. In every scene they are in together, I could just feel an electrifying chemistry between the two.
Both women are going through a messy relationship. Carol is going through a divorce with her husband Harge played by Kyle Chandler and they both have a child together. Their relationship fell apart as she had a lesbian affair with Abby, played by Sarah Paulson. She is threatened never to see her daughter again through a ludicrous 'Morality clause'.
Therese on the other hand is in a relationship with a man who wants to marry her and seems completely unsure what she wants in life. Jake Lacy plays as her boyfriend Richard and their scenes together, and particularly the dialogue in those scenes really stand out to me because it shows exactly how one-sided their relationship is.
The film really plays on the chemistry the two lead actresses have together and I was just so swept with every scene they have alone together because it just feels so intimate! The themes of society telling them they can't be together is prevalent in this film, but it is never the focus, it is simply a great coming of age romance between two people discovering themselves. The love scene in particular is beautifully filmed and just felt so real and passionate and is just beautiful to watch. Carter Burrell's score in this film is just gorgeous and just creates a perfect mood throughout the whole film.
The film is shot in Super 16 mm film by Edward Lachman and it just looks incredible. The slightly grainy look not only captures the look and feel of the 1950's time period effectively, but it also makes everything look so soft and textured, like you can just touch it and I absolutely loved the muted colour palette, sometimes with striking reds to draw the eye.
Carol absolutely blew me away the first time I saw it, and it still holds up for me and even seems a better movie every time I re-watch it. It is filmmaking of the absolute highest order.