Carol is director Todd Haynes’s gift to cinema. What begins as a chance meeting between two women in a department store develops slowly, delicately, tantalisingly into a deep and true bond of love, played out in the shadows of a society that would never understand. It is an exquisitely crafted, beautifully shot gem of a film that moves and delights.
As Carol and Therese, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara dazzle throughout. Blanchett laces her character’s maturity and forwardness with traces of trepidation; so timid and vulnerable is she when hinting her true feelings to Therese that she is barely able to make eye contact. Mara, meanwhile, is even more impressive in her turn as the younger of the two lovers, weaving Therese’s innocence and inexperience with firm determination and resolve. These are two very different – dichotomous even – performances, wonderfully imbued with subtlety and nuance. They complement each other spectacularly and the dynamic between them is electric.
What Haynes has delivered is in many ways a cinephile’s dream. It is gorgeously shot on Super 16mm film, lending such grainy depth and texture to the picture that each frame could well be a photograph. Meanwhile Sandy Powell’s reliably remarkable costume design adds both flavour and genuine believability to a New York of times gone by. Haynes makes strong reference to the great filmic romances which have preceded Carol, most notably David Lean’s brilliant Brief Encounter, from which it borrows certain gestures and an element of structure. In so doing, the film poises itself to claim its own place among the ranks of the great on-screen love stories of our time.
It is wholly unsurprising that Carol has been met with near-universal thunderous critical acclaim. In one of their earliest meetings, Carol remarks that Therese is “flung out of space.” The film, like Therese, is positively stellar.