The lesbian romance movie CAROL (released in 2015), set mostly in New York City at the end of 1951 into 1952, evokes for me a sense of looking at a swath of dark velvet while running one’s hands over it– pure sensuality. Cate Blanchett’s deep, soft voice add the auditory element to this analogy and pleasantly enveloping viewing experience. The often dimly filtered lighting and careful attention to fashion of the period lend a genuine vintage look and feel to the movie, shot on Super 16 mm film.
Ms. Blanchett as the elegant, wealthy, divorcing Carol Aird and Rooney Mara as the much younger, somewhat mysterious Therese Belivet smolder together on-screen. Cate made me think of a movie star or grande dame fashion maven of bygone days, her well-coiffed image stunning to behold in every frame. It’s no wonder she captivates Therese, herself like an angel “flung out of space,” as Carol describes her. These exceptional women seem to glow with an inner light that brightens upon contact with the other.
The two heroines first meet in a large department store shortly before Christmas, where Therese works as a sales clerk and Carol is gift shopping for her young daughter Rindy. Their mutual love is quickly oppressed by the times in which they find themselves, with Carol’s brash, alcoholic husband going to extreme litigious lengths to get her back or take full custody of their child. There is much pathos during these women’s shared journey of social defiance resulting from being true to who they are, which eventually includes driving together across the West from out of NYC. But, fraught though their circumstances be, Carol and Therese blossom together and separately along the way, ultimately underscoring how love can prevail against stacked odds– and all while looking fabulous, at least most of the time.
Todd Haynes directed and Phyllis Nagy wrote the heart-felt screenplay. The superb acting by Blanchett, Mara, and the rest of the cast certainly add to CAROL’s overall excellence. This is one aesthetically creative romance drama well worth watching. [Poster art copyright by Number 9 Films (CAROL) Limited.]