Film Review: Carol


In association with The Grosvenor

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Four years after the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce, director Todd Haynes makes a comeback with another stunning melodrama, this one set in 1950s New York. Carol tells the story of two women from different backgrounds and different stages in life slowly falling in love, despite the many obstacles faced along the way.

The film starts with the two main characters, Carol and Therese, having dinner together and then suddenly being interrupted. The viewers don’t get to know the context of this meeting until later on in the film, but it’s still clear that there is more behind what the two women are apparently saying to each other. A secret language – one of passion – is being spoken under the guise of small gestures and subtle looks. The story then unfolds in flashback, starting with the two lovers meeting for the first time in the department store where Therese works and then focusing on their sudden infatuation, a kind of desire that Therese can’t seem to understand.

This is indeed a movie about the unspoken, about the little details that shape a relationship into an epic love story. A letter Carol writes to her lover is the only great declaration of love found in the film; besides that it’s the looks they share, their delicate touches and even occasional silence that give the film the eroticism and intensity that characterise it. The two women are intoxicated by one another to the point of being almost entrapped. In a similar way they’re also bound by society’s norms and Carol’s turbulent personal life. Perhaps this is the way Haynes manages to tackle the theme of prejudice in those days and include it in the film, not with a sermon-like monologue or stereotypical characters, but by portraying real life situations with every single nuance there can be.

All technical elements in the film perfectly capture the emotions felt by the characters in every scene, from the extraordinary cinematography to the heartbreaking soundtrack. The performances are also amazing: the chemistry between the two actresses is undeniable and Cate Blanchett impeccably embodies the character she’s playing. Although some may find the pacing of the film a bit too dull and the themes too sentimental, Haynes’ last work is arguably one of his best ones and definitely not one to be missed.

[Luigi Gravili]

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