Review: CAROL

By Mark Saldana 

Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars) 

After seeing Far from Heaven and I’m Not There, I became rather impressed with director Todd Haynes.  He is definitely a visionary artist who knows not only how to compose a gorgeous looking film, but a filmmaker who knows how to make his story and characters feel very real.  Haynes’ latest film Carol has much more in common with Far From Heaven than any of his other films.  Both movies take place during the 1950s, an era of puritanical vanity, and deal with personal issues that challenge the conventions of gender roles and the institution of marriage.

Based on the novel by author Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt, Carol tells the story of two women, Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) and Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), who fall in love during an era when a strong, widespread prejudice against same sex relationships existed.  While going through a difficult and painful divorce from her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler), Carol meets a meek and shy Therese who works as a clerk in a department store.  The two share an instant attraction and develop a quick friendship which eventually leads to a passionate relationship.  Problems soon arise when Harge finds out about Carol’s new romance and threatens to use that information as leverage for full custody of their children.

With an adapted screenplay by Phyllis Nagy, Haynes has made another beautiful masterpiece that may be the most romantic film I have seen in a good while.  Working with cinematographer Edward Lachman, an impressive costume designer (Sandy Powell), in addition to a talented art department and production crew, Haynes has made one absolutely gorgeous looking film that has much substance to its writing to match.  The story and character development comes from one of the best screenplays of the year.  Haynes and Nagy have made a romance full of longing and pain.  My heart ached for the two main characters that struggle to start a relationship and are cut short when things are at their most passionate.

Both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara deliver such beautiful performances that it is quite possible that I have never seen them any better than they are in this film.  Both actors embody their roles perfectly and share a sublime chemistry and passion that credibly conveys emotions and feelings for one another. Kyle Chandler also performs wonderfully as a heartbroken husband who cannot seem to understand why his wife is the way she is.  I am more than thrilled that both Blanchett and Mara have received award nominations for their acting, but am a bit disappointed that Chandler did not get recognized as well.

I am pleased that the original score by Carter Burrell also received a Golden Globe nomination because it is one of the best ones I have heard in a movie this year.  At the moment, the movie is my third favorite film of the year and earns my top film rating of four stars.  So far only my top five films have a rating that high. It probably should go without saying at this point, but I will state it anyway.  Carol is one of the best films of 2015.

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