“I don’t know what I want. How could I know what I want if I say yes to everything?”
In one of the most beguiling and captivating scene, we see an affluent & stylish middle aged lady from New Jersey,wearing fur coat,succulent red lips holding a cigarette, elegantly walks into the Toy section of Manahattan Store for the last minute shopping. She takes a watchful look at calm and shy clerk Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) while she slaps a pair of gloves, and patiently inches towards transfixed Therese. They strike an unimportant conversation about toys and dolls, like they are giving time to peep into souls of each others. Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) unexpectedly smiles slyly on her way out and, pointing to the Santa cap Therese wears, she says in her husky voice, “I like the hat.” It is intense and electrifying to say least. The scene feels like Therese realizing that someone, for the first time, has acknowledged her inner self without exchange of any thoughts. Midst of all these, you can sense the hollowness and solidarity of perfume loving Carol (Damn!, How does Cate make you aware of olfactory sense) even when you are not aware about her life.
Adapted from “The Price of Salt” written by Patricia Highsmith in 1952, the films open in a restaurant from the third person view who introduces us to the principal characters talking to each other.Though Therese & Carol talk trivial things at that moment, it is their eyes at that moment that hints for something intense is happening. The gravity of that scene we do not realized until we see what brought them together in the first place. It is aching & beautiful moment at same time.
Carol is a story about a lesbian love affair in an era when such things were beyond taboo and scandalous. Todd Haynes paints the longing of two solitude souls with silence, while he allows shimmering sets, exchange of thoughtful looks, subconscious cigarette smoking and a moment of togetherness with such careful seduction that you can’t withstand falling in love with such despair and emotionally wretched characters. Theresa is a quiet observer,aspiring photographer, and thoughtful young woman, (un)intentionally given the look of Audrey Hepburn, is waiting for something to happen in life. She says yes to everything, she is open for everything, and then poised Carol happens.
They meet at lunch, then at Carol’s home for Christmas eve celebration, and then Therese agrees for a road trip. They both have different reasons to take the road trip, while Therese is unclear about her own life,running towards finding the meaning of life, and she also finds discomforting solace in the company of Carol; Carol is running away from the life, from her own existence, looking for a moment of solace to her restless heart. Carol’s emotionally wretched life is due to battle with her soon to be ex- husband Harge (perfectly played by Kyle Chandler).
Along the journey, they gradually fall in love: Therese instantly realizes it, but Carol takes her sweet time deliberately, but eventually she surrenders herself to the fate, and passionately reciprocates to Therese. Her reluctance comes from the fact that she has traveled the same lane with her now morphed best friend Abby, and Harge, who knows about Abby, might use “closeness” with Therese as an unprincipled behavior for winning the custody of their only child. Romance between these two women is guided by an perturb attraction as well as the social-conscience about the ramifications of a serious relationship will be unnerving. They have a matured relationship of ‘no questions asked’ values. As much as this film explores the love between its two female characters, you see two contrasting characters trying to come on terms with their lives.
The film is beautiful if you survive the heart break , emotional drainage by the end. Todd Haynes has masterfully crafted this drama with a deft direction. He uses close-ups skill-fully to transcend physicality to emotional culmination. Hayness leaves no stone unturned to get the 1950s feel right, and he syncs technical team like a magician. Like, cinematographer Edward Lachman using Super 16 film to shoot that renders authenticity to the film, Carter Burwell’s delicate score that leaves a lasting impact.
Lastly, Carol would have been a different film without Cate and Mara, their is no second thought to it. Cate Blanchett deserves Oscar for her performance, she is that good. Critical choice was to cast actress to play Therese who could match Cate’s splendid performance, and Rooney Mara does it. Mara keeps you guessing about her character’s next move until midway. Her alienation is very much notice-worthy. Mara never gives any opportunity to Cate to over shadow her performance and character, she maintains the delicate balance that compliments Cate . Carol is not only one of the best films of this year, but this decade too.