Carol Review
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It seems as though, in recent years, men have dominated award season. They’ve been given strong, powerful, award-worthy roles, while the same roles for women have been few and far between. But that’s changed this year, thanks to films like Brooklyn, Room, and the latest from director Todd Haynes, Carol.

Carol follows Rooney Mara’s Therese, an aspiring young photographer who’s working as a department store clerk in 1950s Manhattan when she meets Carol (Cate Blanchett), a striking older woman who’s shopping for a Christmas gift for her daughter. The two women seem to have an instant connection—one that Therese struggles to understand. But their relationship is tested by more than just societal pressures. It could even cause Carol’s estranged husband, Harge (Kyle Chandler), to gain full custody of their daughter. And as the custody battle builds, Carol finds herself forced to choose between her child and her freedom.

Carol may tackle a topic that was entirely taboo in the ‘50s, but it does so in a way that feels strikingly classic—and not just because of the period styling. Each filmmaking choice feels deliberately dramatic; each look, each line, each movement is intentional.

The cast, too, has a wonderfully classic feel. Mara is perfectly fresh-faced and naive as Therese. She’s rather underdeveloped as a character—this young woman living on her own in the big city. She’s just a sweet girl who keeps her thoughts, feelings, and opinions to herself. But her relationship with Carol slowly transforms her, changing everything from her appearance to her attitude. Perhaps her relationship with this older woman is no healthier than her relationship with her well-meaning but possessive boyfriend—but it’s certainly a transformative one.

It’s Blanchett, however, who steals every scene. She carries herself like a classic film star: poised, confident, always ready for her close-up. While Carol’s composure and style make her the most fascinating character in any scene, though, her vulnerability makes her real. This is a woman who’s faced with sacrifice; no matter what, she’ll have to give up something that’s vitally important to her. And Blanchett handles the weight of the role with near perfection.

Of course, the romantic relationship between these two characters has been at the forefront—because the film offers a unique perspective in a very traditional way. But, beneath the romance, Carol is a movie about women—about their role in society, in families, and in relationships. These characters may be very different in so many ways—from age to social standing—but both are in a fight for their freedom. Both characters have been overlooked, patronized, and controlled. And as they begin to make their own decisions, they face more and more pressures. So while the nature—and portrayal—of the characters’ relationship may attract attention, this is so much more than just a “lesbian movie.” It’s a movie about relationships, society, and the freedom to choose our own path.

Carol combines so many timely topics and ideas into a film that feels like it could have been made decades ago. But it manages to be thought-provoking and dramatic without feeling overstuffed and unfocused. And Blanchett’s performance alone guarantees that it’ll be an award season fixture.

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