Carol ★★★½

"I'm not alone this year." ~ Therese Belivet

It's early 1953. En route to a friend's party by taxi, young New York Times staffer Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) thinks back to December, when she was working in sales at Frankenberg's Department Store and dreaming of becoming a photographer. Her then boyfriend Richard Semco (Jake Lacy) was urging her to spend the summer in Europe with him and then to get married, but she wasn't ready to commit.

Instead, a chance set of circumstances over the Christmas holidays brought her together with a well-to-do customer, Mrs. Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), of New Jersey. The two women discover a liking for one another, start up a friendship, and begin seeing each other. But Carol is in the middle of divorcing her husband Harge Aird (Kyle Chandler), a control freak who is threatened by his wife's female friendships, especially her childhood BBF Abby Gerhard (Sarah Paulson), who is the godmother of their little daughter Rindy (Sadie Heim).

To cut to the chase, Carol and Therese head off on a road trip together, which takes them through Chicago and on to a motel in Waterloo, Iowa, where they spend New Year's Eve making passionate love. Of course, Harge finds out and uses the situation against Carol to sue for full custody of Rindy. Meanwhile, Theresa blames herself for Carol's predicament, despite the older woman taking full responsibility for her actions.

Ah, America in the 1950s. Sexuality was all so bloody simple. Virtually nobody was "out" so gay relationships hardly existed in the public mind. And those that did were considered aberrant behaviors in need of psychoanalytic help. By the time of Eisenhower's first inaugural address, Harge had all but cowed Carol and forced her into therapy. But what the heart wants, it longs for, and neither Carol nor Therese could deny their attraction.

All this makes for six Academy Award nominations, including one each for Mara and Blancett, plus Best Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design and Original Score. Over in Cannes, Mara tied for Best Actress, while director Todd Haynes won the Queer Palm and received a nomination for the Palme d'Or. Patricia Highsmith gets credit as the author of the novel upon which the film was based, originally entitled "The Price of Salt" (1952) and republished in 1990 .

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