Scott Anderson’s review published on Letterboxd:
In order for a cinematic love story to work, you need to believe in the attraction and the passion being portrayed. Although many different layers factor into this, from a well written screenplay to romantic cinematography to, obviously, the performances, it really is that simple. Just sell the notion that the love is honest and something we should give a shit about and the journey can feel magical. It doesn't matter that "nothing happens" during the Before trilogy by Richard Linklater because the chemistry shared by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy was out of this world. While so many people were making fun of the affair between Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain, I was shedding tears as Ennis held Jack's shirt so tight knowing he would never see him again. We didn't even need to see Samantha to fall hard for what she and Theodore shared in Her, even if it was an unconventional romance between man and a machine.
It didn't matter what these characters looked or sounded like. We believed in their love because of the freedom Linklater gave to his subjects as they strolled through the streets of Vienna, because of the restraint of the performance of Ledger and the look in Jake's eyes, and because of the compassionate and sexy way a computer spoke to a man who needed to hear exactly what it was willing to say.
The new film Carol from director Todd Haynes has everything you need. The dialogue is exquisite but only delivers half of what is necessary in order to portray love on the screen, and the moment I knew I believed in this story came early when Therese (Rooney Mara) spots Carol (Cate Blanchett) for the first time from across the room. Who needs words when you can exude such intense attraction with your eyes? The photography is simply gorgeous throughout, whether it be of a beautifully framed character in a perfectly lit room or the way snow falls slowly around Therese as she takes pictures with her camera. The performances, specifically from Mara and Blanchett, are more than award worthy and we will likely see both nominated on Oscar night. Their chemistry feels insanely authentic.
The film takes place in New York during the 1950's and Therese is a clerk at a department store when she sees Carol and she cannot look away. Carol is older than Therese and is married and a mother, but it doesn't stop them from beginning a passionate romance. The story is simple but delivered with such grace and elegance that it at times feels extraordinary. The craft of this work is astounding which is not only admirable for obvious reasons but it also allows a narrative that could have easily dragged a bit to flow with relative ease.
What I do wonder is how much a film like this will resonate over time. All of the love stories I mentioned have a certain wow factor that makes the magic of their feelings linger over me days, months, even years after I have seen the films, and I just don't know if Carol has that element. Only time will tell.
If it does end up being the type of work that feels incredible in the moment but fades away down the road, so be it. Carol is still more than worth it because of how impeccably it is made and because it's impossible not to believe in their love.