Carol is a deeply powerful and emotionally honest story of the romance between two New Yorkers, Carol and Therese (Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) who courageously defy the suffocating conformities of mid-century America.
An absolutely sublime feature film from Todd Haynes, Carol depicts 1950s Manhattan in a dreamy, ethereal glow; Cocktails before dinner, dappled winter sunlight streaming across the city and a tender love story unfurling after a chance encounter at an uptown department store.
Carol, Cate in arguably her most brittle but glamorous role yet, is about to go through a divorce and bitter legal battle to keep custody of her daughter, when she meets Terese. Terese, Mara channeling an early Audrey Hepburn, is a the intoxicating young ingénue shop worker, about to get engaged to her boyfriend, who admits that she herself "Can't say no, can never make up my mind... How am I to know what I really want, when I can't say no?" Their chemistry crackles with electricity, the romance sweeping the narrative along with the giddy, new-found air of fearlessness felt by both characters.
The interesting theme of the film is the female gaze that shifts throughout. Therese sells beautifully made up dolls in her job as a shop assistant. The camera is obsessed with keeping her character framed by these feminine ideals, that is until Therese, becoming increasingly obsessed with photography, picks up her own camera and points it at Carol. As their romance becomes more and more entwined, the pace begins to pick up and lose it's dreamy quality as reality comes crashing down around them. Carol faces the absurdity of having to go through treatment to rid her of these 'abnormal' desires and so that she can visit her daughter, despite her utter devotion as a mother. Therese loses the life she has always known, she is cast out from it and there is no going back.
The films final scene brilliantly shifts the power once more, with Director Todd Haynes revealing the power of the female gaze in a film which aptly comes to symbolise not only the trappings of the post-war America ideal but also that of social oppression throughout the world today. With a female-led cast and focused romantic plot device, it's ironic that Carol is considered a period piece when it is such a breath of fresh air for film today.