Todd Haynes directs Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett and Sarah Paulson in this 1950’s love story between a curious shopgirl and a glamorous upper class mother going through a difficult divorce.
Elegantly seductive, this is a gorgeously detailed romance. Blanchett’s initially tragic trapped rarity is imbued with mystery. Mara has a less showy part as a proto-hipster, cute Tam O’Shanter and photography ambitions all present and correct, but through her searching, longing silences leaves a more lasting impression. Watching them go through their long, risky approach to consummating their obvious attraction for each other is heart breaking. Haynes visually essays a world of conformity and control, so that minor rebellions of affection or flirtation seem monumental. A child’s model railway is an apt early visual metaphor. Essentially a simple, colourful recreation of moving life… then we watch the nostalgic, stereotyped figures come to life, leave their loops and jump the tracks. Our final look at Carol is her left fashionably sitting in a cocktail party surrounded by other moneyed non-conformists. She is finally free of the heterosexual marriage she was enslaved in. Mara leaves her less salubrious apartment party to find Blanchett, after rejecting a subtle set-up with a more obviously “out” girl her own age. She isn’t going to be defined by the stereotypical 1950’s lesbian tribe anymore than Carol is pigeonholed by her gender. Their love transcends labels.