Invested from the get-go, the swell of anticipation which crept toward a well crafted and full circle climax is a pleasure to behold. Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt and directed by Todd Haynes, Carol follows the all-consuming forbidden love of two women from two very different walks of life. This immersive tour de force was extremely impressive. Having watched it a week ago I am finding the more I ruminate on this film the higher my opinion raises. Not one to forget.
Cate Blanchett lives and breathes the role of Carol Aird. Affluent, cultured and beautiful, Carol sets her eyes upon Therese Belivet, a coy, young toy shop clerk with an interest in photography. In one sense a huge gulf between the two permeates throughout the film. This canyon spans the huge contrast in lifestyle each lead, something that doesn’t hinder the desire they share for one another. With the kindling of this relationship Carol’s estranged husband, Harge (Kyle Chandler), demonstrates his willingness to pull the rug from under her feet. Carol is left conflicted between her love, Therese: the person that gives her life meaning, and Harge, prepared to tear everything else she holds dear away from her to spite this romance.
This film has a delicate elegance to it. Among other things, this feeling is drawn from its minimalist script. Instead of words we are given a look, a meeting of the eyes, a hand lightly brushing against a shoulder. These small gestures seem to communicate much more than any words could. As well as this, the carefully planned sets, the thorough costume design, and artistic filming help generate this aura. A 16mm lens is expertly utilised by Ed Lachman (a name after watching this film you’ll note) to follow the story from the perspective of Therese. The grainy focus and rich cinematic history preceding the use of 16mm succeeds in casting us back to the fifties and capturing the sense of overwhelming magnetism palpable between the two main characters.
Creatively Carol flourishes, for instance recurring shots through various window panes are frequently deployed. These are purportedly inspired by Saul Leiter, a photographer known for his interest in reflection. Spying through car or café windows we grasp the subtleties of emotion playing across Mara’s Audrey Hepburn-esque features. The film’s creative freedom deepens the already thick plot revolving around taboo love, the ugly affair of family litigation, and a husband-hired private detective out to expose. Here we have a story written in 1952, set in post world war New York, and brought to life on the big screen with its message highly accessible to modern audiences.
From the rich visual tapestry, to the superb acting, to the subtly enchanting and perfectly executed story, this film delivers. Carol has met a great reception from critics and with that I now wholeheartedly add to the sentiment.
By Zachary Whyte