Set in an era when glances an small gestures speak volumes, Todd Haynes’s Carol is a luscious and profound piece on relationships, sexuality and repression. Based on the Patricia Highsmith novel “The Price of Salt,” the film details the meeting, flirtation and romance between two very different women; Carol is a wealthy New York City suburbanite in a rocky marriage and Therese is a shopgirl with dreams of being a photographer. Cate Blanchett plays Carol with a stunning balance of stoicism and poise mixed with aggressive sensuality. In a career of nearly 20 years of memorable and award-winning performances Cate Blanchett may have found her greatest yet; it’s a career best turn. Rooney Mara (who won Best Actress at Cannes) plays Therese with wide-eyed naïveté (“I barely even know what to order for lunch”) but also with a strong sense of self.
As the two embark on a series of secrets meetings, Haynes gives us a visually sumptuous treat that acts as a bookend to his 2002 masterpiece Far From Heaven, which also revolved around a 1950s suburban housewife dealing with repression in a sexually closed society.
The restraint and subtlety in Carol, the extreme close-ups so intimate you feel as if you’re there (cinematographer Ed Lachmann’s work here is genius), the production design by Judy Becker is immersive, Sandy Powell’s costumes are practically edible (the use of red in Carol’s wardrobe is almost a scarlet letter) and Carter Burwell’s gorgeous score act like a series of small cracks that culminate in a shattering finale.