Carol is a 2015 romantic drama film directed by Todd Haynes and starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. It is one of the best and most wonderful movies of the year.
Carol follows the romantic relationship between a younger woman who is an aspiring photographer and an older woman who goes through a difficult divorce during the fifties. This film amazed me how great it was. The mix of traditional and old-fashioned filmmaking and a new, different subject matter is what makes it so interesting and unique. The entire film seems as if it came out in the fifties which I absolutely loved as the costumes, the music and the overall classic feel it possesses is just beautiful to behold. But the gay relationship is something that the fifties never could provide and this film has that which is great. I just loved that mix and I found the story to be very relatable and relevant.
The character development is also really good. Abby is quite good and I loved what they did with Hadge. He isn’t too vilified here and is portrayed in such a realistic way. He is angry at his wife and made some horrible actions, but still loves here and cares for her which is great and felt so real. But the two protagonists are just phenomenal. Therese is just such an endearing character and I loved her. Her nervous, shy and lovable personality really hit me and she seemed like a real person that I just met, wonderfully realized. Carol was too cold at times, but I still liked that for the most part and her problems were so heartbreaking and you feel sorry for her, despite her not being that great a person.
But the two have such an immensely beautiful relationship that I was blown away by it. For a romance film, the romance needs to work and that is essential for this genre. And it did work which is why it’s such a good movie. The actresses share such a great chemistry together, they gave superb performances and the characters are so well written and so real that I bought their relationship from the first moments. But what takes it to the next level are the facial expressions and the looks they make and the eye contact. That was just wonderful. When Carol touches Therese, you can see her tremble. When Carol looks at Therese, you can see the care in her eyes. And Therese was always fascinated with her and that was also quite evident on screen.
The finest scene in the entire movie has to be that ending. Wow, I was just mesmerized by it! I expected something like that to happen, but I still did not expect such craftsmanship that went into the scene. Therese finally goes to see Carol who is at a party. When she comes in, she checks the crowd until she notices her and you can see the conflict in her eyes. She nervously makes steps towards her table and along the way you can witness some incredible cinematography at display here. The camera angles are from her viewpoint and when somebody blocks her view, your view is blocked too. Finally, when she comes close enough, Carol finally spots her and a big, happy smile slowly forms on her face while the screen fades to darkness. This is such an astonishing ending scene that is definitely my favorite scene of any 2015 film.
The acting is absolutely fantastic. All of the actors did a great job, but to me Rooney Mara gave a better performance mainly because Cate was too theatrical during some scenes. But she is still very good and she has such a strong presence here. That mysterious and cold quality to the character fitted wonderfully for Blanchett to work with and she did a great job with it. However, Rooney Mara stole the show and is the best I’ve seen her so far. She is just so incredibly likable and charming in the role which is great as that was essential for the relationship and the movie to work. Her facial expressions are excellent and she sold her more emotional scenes as well. The two have such a great chemistry together and they play off of each other perfectly. They are the opposite which is the reason why their relationship works in my opinion and is so intriguing. One is cold and calculated, the other is more sweet and shy. It was as if I watched Bette Davis and Audrey Hepburn together and that was such a great feeling.
Carol is a technically stunning movie! Everything here is mesmerizing to behold. The costumes are just amazing and so memorable. The use of photographs in its storytelling is wonderful and some pictures and shots are truly artistic as is the entire movie. The tone is well handled as it is melodramatic while still being sweet and charming. I held a smile on my face for the entire running time which is a testament to how great their relationship is and how wonderfully cozy and soothing the whole movie felt. The score is magnificent! This is one of the best scored films in recent memory and it is the only score that I remembered after watching the movie as it is so memorable and beautiful to listen to. The emotion is greatly conveyed and the film is never too melodramatic or too emotional. It is such a sophisticated and realistic, but also effervescent and romantic movie and that mix is admirably pulled together. And I liked its pacing as it is slow, but in a calm and pleasant way. The relationship builds with such a slow, real and natural progress and that made it especially strong.
It isn’t a perfect movie as the dialogue wasn’t that impressive in my opinion. Some of the scenes were really well written, but I still expected more from it in terms of sophistication and memorable lines. Cate Blanchett is too theatrical at times and the film’s first act, while wonderful, is still too prolonged in my opinion. But those are some small flaws that did not affect this movie on a larger scale. Carol received six Oscar nominations and lost all of them which is just horrible. Plus it did not get a Best Picture nod which is suspiciously homophobic of the Academy as it truly is one of the very best films of the year.