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Carol - DVD Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

TODD Haynes is proving himself to be something of an expert in bringing tales of dangerous love to the screen in a highly intelligent manner.

One of his earliest works, Far From Heaven, dealt with sexual and racial prejudices in heartfelt, thought-provoking fashion, while his latest, Carol, examines a lesbian romance in similarly absorbing fashion.

Based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel The Price of Salt, which in itself was a semi autobiographical work, this follows the relationship between two women: young and curious department store worker Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) and stylish, secretive mother Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett).

Neither woman is afraid of their sexuality but both are acutely aware of society’s attitude towards it. For Carol, in particular, the public realisation of her innermost desires could result in the loss of her child if exposed by her conflicted husband Harge (Kyle Chandler).

And yet both women persist in following their attraction. At first, the ‘affair’ is fleeting; a touch here, a dinner date there. But as frustrations mount and confidence grows, risks are taken. Their love becomes more physical. And while such risks are of a slow-burning nature, their emotional consequence is never short-changed.

Haynes’ movie has been in the works for years, largely because of the attitude of studios who wanted changes to Highsmith’s source material. But crucially, there are no generic scenes of central characters questioning their sexual orientation and making crude last gasp grand gestures.

Rather, Carol adopts a far more intelligent stance. Neither Therese nor Carol should feel ashamed of how they feel. Rather, it is society that feels uncomfortable. And yet, ironically, it is society that ultimately dictates the manner in which such a relationship can be conducted… a situation cleverly dissected by Haynes approach.

As a result, the performances feel more natural, with Mara and Blanchett both on exemplary form. The former matures as the film progresses, yet is alluring in her early naivety and brave in her head-strong tenacity. Blanchett, on the other hand, plays Carol as a woman who will not suppress her desires despite being aware she has everything to lose.

Chandler, as Carol’s impotent husband, also excels, fully tapping into the despair and frustration of his own predicament: driven by both love and anger in just a few short scenes.

In book form, Highsmith’s text was inspired by an elegant blonde woman she once served in a Manhattan department store around Christmas 1948, while the custody battle element was also plucked from real-life [in the form of a former partner]. It is a tribute to the film’s own sense of perseverance, that it fought so hard to stay true to the novel’s key elements.

As a result, Carol feels like a better, far richer film experience. It is a masterful piece of filmmaking that continues to hold resonance today.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 118mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: March 21, 2016