Review: Carol @ HOME, Manchester

There’s an understated eloquence to Todd Haynes’ work and Carol is a lavish example of such beauty.

His vision has a tenderness to it to enrich the frame without bombast or OTT production values.

Equally, his passion for the emotive storytelling – people have been waiting for many years for this story to reach the screen, and a rewarding spectacle it proves to be.

Carol (Cate Blanchett) is a housewife going through a difficult divorce from a controlling and neglectful husband who is struggling to maintain time with her daughter.

Rooney Mara’s Therese is in a completely different scenario – working as a temp in a toy store, unsure of her direction, lacking the power to say no to anything.

At a chance meeting, she sells Carol a train set for her daughter, and Carol accidently leaves her gloves.

Therese mails them back to her, and thus sets off an unlikely but intense relationship.

The film is attempting to tread its own line between the arthouse exploitation and mainstream cinema blends, working with a ground-breaking source material that had a rare happy ending for a novel dealing with homosexuality.

Because of this and its ever-increasing popularity over the decades, the line the film treads to appeal to the more well-rounded audiences proves to be incredibly strong.

Naturally it helps with having the raw power of two remarkable central stars, with both characters having their own interesting complexities.

Carol herself glamourises her surroundings; she’s articulate, sophisticated and carries a form of social respect.

Therese is clearly transfixed about the sheer presence she carries, as she’s somewhat of a recluse, socially quite awkward, lacking the firm decision making and clear direction; sexually, professionally, and socially.

The pair are distinctly different, but they do possess a solid similarity. Carol does not want to give away her weaknesses and insecurities, possibly to not tarnish the respect she carries.

Yet in the meetings her and Therese have – which are so intimately shot – Blanchett is professional at hinting the inner workings of her character.

She has an abundance of feelings working behind closed doors, and the power of these for Therese is attempting to break the surface, which occasionally they do, but the power of stabilising these is where Blanchett truly shines.

Therese has the same inner workings, but she’s not sure how to expose them.

She doesn’t want to say no to anyone or anything, but fundamentally she doesn’t know what she wants, and Mara’s performance perfectly displays the results of processes like these.

The most impressive feature of Carol is Todd Hayne’s attention to the period setting of the 1950s, and without distracting from the intimacy of the relationship.

While you’re constantly worrying if Carol loves Therese, or if Therese really wants her life to proceed in this direction, you’re always in admiration of the dresses they’re wearing, the boldness of Carol’s lipstick, the authenticity of the cafes, and just how beautiful the 50s taxis are.

It’s a line within a line that Hayne’s is treading – and yet again, is footing is never stronger.

The drama is crisp, the central relationship is powerful and heartfelt, the performances stunning, and the production and cinematography pleases without overload.

Top marks for Haynes, and awards aplenty to be inbound for Blanchett and Mara. It’s really, really quite good. 

Image courtesy of StudioCanal, via YouTube, with thanks.

Related Articles