Carol (15)

Directed by Todd Haynes
Starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler

While many would just slap the 'period lesbian drama' label on this film, it is much more than that. A beautifully touching story of the pains of falling in love when there are so many obstacles in your way. A theme that is pretty universal. For Carol (a radiant Blanchett whose cheekbones were MADE the the 50s look) and Therese (Rooney Mara proving she is more than just 'not-Noomi-Rapace') those barriers are not just the fact they are both women. Indeed, there is no gay panic scene at all! It is the gulf in their wealth and status - society lady and shop girl; the age gap; Carol's ties to her daughter versus Therese's lack of any apparent family.

Director Todd Haynes steals Brief Encounter's structure, with an opening scene where a stranger stumbles upon two people in the middle of a goodbye, a scene that only has meaning once we flashback to see how the two women got there. The first encounter has Therese instantly smitten with the stylish and alluring Carol, and pretty much unable to say no to anything she asks - lunch, a visit to her home, presents and road trip etc. However, her puppy dog eagerness for Carol's affection could have made for an uncomfortable inequality in the power of the relationship. That the romance is convincing and not just a cougar taking the innocence of a sweet young thing and sending her crying back to the world of men is a blessed relief! The wonderfully subversive tone continues in the unexpected way Carol is allowed to be a woman first and a mother second. So often on film, women give up their own happiness for the sake of their child. Here there is a much more thoughtful and realistic ending that isn't based on what society expects. Even the stereotypical boorish husband (Kyle Chandler) really isn't a bad guy. He knows about his wife's preferences but is in denial and doesn't understand why she can't love him.

The film is pretty languorous and deliberate - possibly too slow for some - but I absolutely loved this film. Beautifully made with fantastic costumes and production design. Perfect acting from Mara and especially Blanchett. Sarah Paulson is also great in a supporting role as Carol's friend and ex-lover. Nice to see a film like this was a relatively positive ending. SPOILER ALERT - no no dies!!


December 2015

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