Sometimes, when I see a movie, I just instantly know it's going to sweep up a bunch of awards. It just feels like an award winner. These films aren't always the best films of the year, such as Birdman, but they have an award season vibe to them. There are other films that are absolutely brilliant, such as The Rover, but they don't stand a chance of winning a major award. Then there's Carol, a film that's both brilliant and worthy of awards. Is there even any point in holding a best actress category? Just give the award to Cate Blanchett now! At this point in time, she has a 100% chance of winning it.
Based on the novel 'The Price of Salt' by Patricia Highsmith, the author of Talented Mr. Ripley and The Two Faces of January, Carol is set in 1950s New York and follows the story of Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), a department store clerk with dreams to be a photographer. One day, a woman named Carol (Cate Blanchett) arrives in her shop, inquiring about a gift for her daughter. This leads to a romance between the two of them, but it seems not everybody is happy with this affair. In particular, Carol's husband, Harge (Kyle Chandler), who uses Carol's long string of affairs to try and gain full custody over their child.
The plot for Carol is not what makes this film great. The plot, as a matter of fact, is incredibly simple, merely following these two women as they have an affair. The film is a journey through their relationship, exploring these two characters in as much detail as possible. The story is weak, but the characterisation is in depth, and you really feel their progression as characters. You can see that these two leads have clearly evolved over the course of the movie, and it's wonderful. It's a series of events that affects their love in one way or another, and it slowly pulls pieces of your heart away as it does so.
The supporting cast can make things a bit convoluted, but it's this central story between Carol and Therese that really makes the movie. Their love draws you in and never lets you go. It's believable and honest, the actors making it as authentic as possible. Love stories can get rather forced from time to time, but occasionally a film comes along that just nails it. It's never forced. It's never corny. It never looks like the actors are uncomfortable. Carol is one of these movies, and I adored what it did.
What makes this film even better, however, are the performances and the direction. Cate Blanchett has to be my favourite actress and lately, she's been at the top of her game. From her Oscar-winning performance in Blue Jasmine to her wicked turn in Cinderella, these last few years have been rather memorable for the Australian actress. I mean, she's always been sensational, one year even getting nominated for two Oscar's, but lately.... I don't know. She just seems to be giving consistently stellar performances, none of which are remotely like the last. She's a diverse actress and she shines in this movie.
Rooney Mara, for a long time now, has been a painfully underrated actress. She's an actress who deserves more recognition than she gets. Just watch her performance in David Fincher's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and you'll understand what I'm talking about. I've been a fan of hers for a long time, every performance she gives is something special. Yes, even in Pan she gives arguably the second best performance in that entire movie, although that was rather easy to achieve since everyone overacted. Carol, in my opinion, is neither her best film, nor her best performance, but it still managed to blow me away. I fear she'll be overshadowed by Blanchett, but she deserves a lot of recognition as well.
Todd Haynes is at the top of his game with Carol, getting the best out of his cast, but also showing off his skills behind the scenes. The camera work is excellent and the set design is wonderful, but it's also the quietness and the look of the film that just adds to the whole thing. This is a film set 60 years in the past and it doesn't even look like they're trying. It looks completely real. Carol is definitely a slow and uneventful movie, but there's never an uninteresting moment. Haynes has perfected the art of storytelling, deceiving all of us into thinking this is a much faster movie than it actually is. And yes, that's a good thing. It may not sound like it, but it is. I loved this movie. A lot.
To sum up, Carol is a tremendous achievement, combining together the talents of Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara and Todd Haynes into a film that most definitely deserves the award season buzz it's been getting for quite some time now. Prepare your heart. It's not emotionally ready for this film.