Carol tells a story of when “different” meant against law and I felt it in every chamber of my heart. It brought to life two characters whose love, even though surrounded in deep consequences, was relatable to anyone who has ever loved another.
It reminded me of the film, The Hours, a movie that replenished my soul and helped convey the simplest of ideas to me…that love is love, and it can defy gender and age and era. To be immersed in a story like this is why I go to movies. To live a life that’s different than my own and to understand the plight and joy of someone else’s world, if only for a moment.
Starring Cate Blanchett (The Aviator, Blue Jasmine) and Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) , Carol is based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, called The Price of Salt. Directed by Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven), the novel is elegantly transferred from paper to the silver screen and it is heartbreakingly enjoyable to watch.
The story begins with Carol (Cate Blanchett) shopping for her daughter’s Christmas present. Her eye catches that of shop assistant, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) and a spark between the ladies starts to form. With an exchange of friendly gestures and looks, the two women seem to fall for each other almost instantly.
For two women to pursue a relationship in the 1950s was the ultimate taboo. Todd Haynes is able to reveal the stressful nature of their forbidden love without even uttering the words homosexual or lesbian. However, the film is colored by the impending threat of their prohibited love.
It takes almost an hour into the film before Carol and Therese start to melt into each other’s lives. There is an aching need to see them in a world that they can create together.
The film was confronting because it asked the question “would you risk life as you know it, for the person you love?” Their fear was palpable to me. I was paralyzed by the very thought of choosing between my family or the love of my life and that is the money shot right there. That is why the film is so brilliant. I came out of the theatre, emotionally exhausted from the experience.
With Carol’s soon-to-be ex-husband threatening to keep their child away from her, she is confronted with the decision to choose between her daughter or Therese. I wanted so much to see more of each character’s point of view. Yet, I was kept at arm’s length because of the brilliant choices of Todd Haynes. He shot the characters through the windows of a car or house and left them in a hazy focus. Something that made me strain my eyes and drew me in all at the same time.
As the LGBT community has progressed over time, so has the films that represent that community. Carol, looked at the lives of two lesbian characters and showed them for exactly who they were. It didn’t stereotype them in any way and it didn’t make one of the characters less likable than the other. I can’t think of another LGBT film that has ever done that.
From the hint at lesbianism in The Children’s Hour to “we’re here, we’re queer” style of Tangerine, the film movement is adapting alongside society. Carol, becomes a part of that change, that conversation and that history.
It took over 50 years for this novel to be made into a film, with various changes in directors and actresses along the way. If that meant that I had to wait for Todd Haynes, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara to be a part of that story, then it is the best wait in line for a movie that I have ever had.