Festival Review: Carol


Adapted from the novel by Patricia Highsmith, Todd Haynes’ Carol basks in a 1950s glow of glorious chiffons, illicit love and stifled emotion.

Far From Heaven

by Mark Wilshin


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Cate Blanchett seems to have the market in screen goddesses cornered – from Galadriel in Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy to the titular heroine in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. Like her Virgin Queen in Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth, she has become a divine but vulnerable statue. And perhaps nowhere more so than in Todd Haynes Carol, with her coiffed golden tresses, modish dresses and her slowly flicking, immaculately made-up eyelashes. And like Carol, Carol is graceful, poised and elegant, as we slide smoothly into the story of Carol Aird (Blanchett) whose lesbian urges lead her into a messy divorce from husband Harge and Therese (Rooney Mara) a shop assistant at Frankenberg’s with dreams of becoming a photographer. Unlike her dalliance with beau Richard, the attraction is immediate and undeniable, and when Carol is slapped with an injunction to keep her away from her daughter Rindy, the two women embark on a road trip across the United States. Based on the novel The Price Of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, Carol deliciously evokes 1950s New York, and unusually for gay fiction, delivers a happy ending – even if it comes at the cost of giving up custody of her daughter. It’s a sacrifice demanded by the age. And yet, this isn’t 1952, and with muted sex scenes and a tumult of stifled emotions, Carol restricts itself to the delicate touch of a hand. But while it might be prim and proper, and not especially affecting, it’s deliciously lensed, scripted and acted. And with a performance from Blanchett revealing glimpses of a raw freshness not seen since Elizabeth, Carol makes for a luminous monument to love in a dark time.

Carol is now showing at the London Film Festival

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