Andrew’s review published on Letterboxd:
This is the type of review that I enjoy writing. IT is the kind where a description of the movie serves as my a collection of my thoughts on it. It is the type of review where a thesaurus is needed to look up different ways of expressing beauty.
Carol takes place in 1950's New York. It is the story of an older woman whose marriage is falling apart. I guess to be more specific, it has fallen apart, and we are introduced to these characters in the painful final days. The wife is Carol, the Husband, played by Kyle Chandler, Is Harge. Harge has become vindictive and desperate.
The only word that I can think of to describe the actress playing Carol is "The Divine Cate Blanchette". I believe she is our greatest working actress. She does not disappoint in this role. Her character is wounded, but trying to seem strong. She is full of life and love, but restrained by the social norms. She is elegant and proper, with a hint of rebellion. Nuance is Blanchette's strong suit.
Carol meets a mouseish, shopgirl while shopping for a Christmas present for her daughter. They quickly for a bond and a friendship, but you can tell that there is something deeper going on between them. The shopgirl is Therese, played by Rooney Mara. Her character is shy, and smart. She is young and inexperienced, but she says "yes" to everything. Or almost everything. Through much of the movie, her boyfriend is trying to her to to move to Europe with him, and she can not commit.
Carol and Therese make plans to spend that Holiday together, and this is when they first begin to express their romantic interests in one another. The slow burn of the relationship is longingly painful to watch. To think of these two people, so restrained and so guarded, it is difficult to watch at times.
When Harge finds out that Carol is "showing interest" in a woman, he takes their kid away and becomes a bit of a monster. Carol is forced to put her lovelife on hold in an attempt to do what is best for her family.
This movie was shot on 16mm, and if there is ever any argument that film should be available to cinematic artists instead of forcing digital image recording, this film should be exhibit A. It is lush and textured and tactile in a way that digital can only hope to mimic. To further emphasize this, the director and cinematographer take every opportunity to shoot through raindroped windows, and smeared sheets of glass. All of which adds layers of complexity to the image as well as the narrative, showing reflections and signifying the moods of the characters.
I do have a few minor quibbles with the film. I wonder if including the child was going one step too far. I know many people will find it crucial, and that it will give Carol motivation for her actions, but for me it felt like stacking the deck a little bit. Using the love a mother has for a child as a plot point kind of feels cheap and easy.
My other minor complaint is that Harge is not really a character. By that I mean that he is there to serve a purpose and not really given the emotional complexity that the female characters are. I think the screenwriter was aware of this, and there are steps taken to flush him out a bit more and make him more than one dimensional, but I feel like a little more could have been done.
I have already written about Blanchette, but Mara should not be overlooked. She is not as theatrical as Blanchette, but her character isn't either. But that is not to say that she isn't as fully formed. When you compare Therese to Liz Salander from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, you can see the range that this actress has, and it makes this performance stand out all the more.
The score works so well in this film. It really feels woven into the fabric of the story and images. It is organic and passionate, while being restrained and shackled in a way. It is a perfect marriage of sound and picture.
I think this film is so successful in showing us a side of humanity that existed in the past, and in doing so it allows us to see the comparisons to what is happening today. That makes this a very timely and poignant film for me.