Vince The Cinephile’s review published on Letterboxd:
Carol is immaculate. Carol is heart-stopping. Carol is devastating. There are so many wonderful adjectives in the English language that can describe my experience in watching Carol. After the film, I literally can’t feel my heart. I can’t talk. I can’t move from my seat. I don’t know what happened. That final scene killed me and as I’m writing my thoughts, I can’t fully expressed how I’m deeply in awe.
I love the artistry of Todd Haynes. His films are not only a feast for the eyes, but they are feast for the brains as well. They managed to be beautiful and cerebral in both ways. The emotions in Carol are so subtle and bottled-up and so by time we witness the final scene, everything just exploded and brought me straight up to heaven. Compared to Brooklyn’s optimistic representation of the 1950s, Carol’s distant and chilly atmosphere conveys the inner turmoil and oppression of the post-war era. Hence, Haynes’ absolutely captured the mid-century’s superficial glamour with the help of cinematographer Ed Lachman, through the film’s obsession with glasses and mirrors.
Every single element in Carol flows harmoniously. Aside from the real star which is Haynes’ deft direction, the two elements that also standout for me was Ed Lachman’s cinematography and Carter Burwell’s score. Lachman’s use of the grainy Super 16mm is arresting, adding texture and poise to the overall look of the film. While Burwell’s majestic score captured the wordless expressions of love, and intimacy by these two women. It’s also worth noting the production design of Judy Becker as well as Sandy Powell’s costumes that gave elegance to the film.
And for the writing, my friend told me how the film was so much potent than Patricia Highsmith’s novel Price of Salt. In the novel, Carol Aird is a figment of Therese’s imagination. Carol is a creature of fantasy and sexual desire. But in the film, screenwriter Phyllis Nagy delicately expose the humanity of not only Therese but Carol’s perspective as well. Behind all those beauty, lies Carol’s brokenness and her fight against injustices imposed by a then-closed minded society. It's also interesting how there’s no line where they ever say ‘lesbian’ or ‘gay’. The implications are underneath. It’s the feeling and emotion that suggest those words. As for Therese, her short-lived, but passionate relationship with Carol gave her a profound learning experience of growth and maturity. At the beginning, Therese has no point of saying ‘no’. But because of Carol, she has learned to know herself deeply and maybe understand the point of loving yourself first before anything else.
Now for the acting, it’s all immaculate. Both actresses created an instant and magnetic chemistry on screen. Cate Blanchett has a much showier part, but she beautifully underplays everything here. Her classic movie star looks totally complements her character. Blanchett’s seductive gaze and resonating body language have a remarkable power of hypnosis and you’re just over the moon by just looking at her. Rooney Mara however gives a much quieter but bold performance as Therese. Mara’s wide eyes have an otherworldly feeling of innocence yet carries a mystery of self-possession—she’s an absolute stunner. Sarah Paulson is brilliant as ever, wishing that she have much more scenes. Ditto Kyle Chandler.
Overall, Carol displays what masterful filmmaking has to offer. It’s literally the heart-stopping romance of the year. The hype is real. One of the best experiences I’ve had in a movie theater. Planning to see it again next week. Maybe tomorrow. Who knows?