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Carol - Film Review

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by Jenny Esots (subscribe)
A freelance writer and traveller who likes to explore the spiritual, literary and hidden gems of Adelaide and beyond.
Published October 20th 2015
Luminous Painting Comes to Life
Carol is a captivating film which features the most luminous screen presence of Cate Blanchett. A film noir style period piece set in the early 1950's, mainly in New York City, concerns a cross-country road trip. The narrative never falters. All the players are involving. The pace so far from the high edge visual stunts of 2015 film/advertorials. The story slowly unwinds and with it every frame brings treasured details.

Cate Blanchett as Carol
Cate Blanchett as Carol

Carol tells the story of a wealthy socialite whose marriage has disintegrated. Her husband (played by Kyle Chandler) is increasingly desperate and shows an undercurrent of menace and violence in the ongoing custody battle. Carol's life is ripped apart as she finds love with a young female shop assistant, Therese. The film shows the beginnings of independence for both women with quiet wisdom and vulnerability.

Therese played by Rooney Mara
Therese played by Rooney Mara

The costumes alone deserve an Academy award. The cinematography brings this era into melancholy retrospective and vogue. Scenes of long car drives with rain on the windows and Carol's vivid lipstick in rich contrast. This was a sold out screening at the Adelaide Film Festival in the very apt historic Piccadilly Cinema, where the audience hung on every word.

Therese played by Rooney Mara
Therese played by Rooney Mara

The director Todd Haynes was very influenced by the artist Edward Hopper, a prominent American realist painter and printmaker who painted portraits of modern American life in the first half of the 20th century. The screen images feel like the viewer is walking into one of these paintings. In a scene where both actresses are in front of a fluted mirror, the viewer sees the colour hues and composition of a master filmmaker at work. There are so many evocative scenes. One of the best is the opening sequences in the toy section of a large department store. This features an inspired and charming childhood retrospective and a homage to another time.

Carol with her daughter
Carol with her daughter

This film has received high praise from the critics and it is not hard to see why. It is a British-American production with a screenplay by Phyllis Nagy, leaves lots of silences and space for the story and characters to develop. The film is based on a book, which I haven't read, entitled The Price of Salt (also known as Carol) by Patricia Highsmith.

The luminous Cate Blanchett as Carol
The luminous Cate Blanchett as Carol

The whole cast is exceptional, there is no over acting here. The films main stars are the very stylish Cate Blanchett and the young ingénue shop assistant perfectly played by Rooney Mara, who engage from the start. This deeply authentic film invites the viewer into the mesmerising world of Carol, which I very much must visit again.

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