4 Stars

Out of 4 Stars4

Carol (2015, USA, d. Todd Haynes, 118 Minutes)

by Robert Joseph Butler

An undeniable highlight of the year, Todd Haynes’s sixth feature is an exquisite adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel “The Price of Salt”, and this film is certainly a companion piece to Haynes’s 1950s-era masterpiece “Far From Heaven.” Now crafting films for 25 years, “Carol” in many ways a follow-up to his earlier films as well as a departure because this is the first film where Hayes is not involved as writer or co-writer. Adapted to the screen by Phyllis Nagy, and the film features two great performances by, Cate Blanchett who is fresh off from Oscar-winning turn in Woody Allen’sBlue Jasmine (2013)”, and Rooney Mara, best known for her Oscar nominated turn in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo“.

Though he didn’t write the script, in Carol, Haynes continues to explore ideas, themes, and characters that has consumed him over the past three decades. As is the case of other interesting indie directors–David O. Russell, Alexander Payne, Steven Soderbergh, and Quentin Tarantino all roughly his age.

Carol belongs to Haynes’ provocative films about various forms of sexual repression and confinement. His films often deconstruct sexual politics and film genre while centering on the role of the housewife, just as he did with “Far From Heaven”, which is Haynes best film to date and “Safe” also starring Julianne More which was greatly under valued. In many ways “Carol” almost fits as a trilogy to “Far From Heaven”, and “Safe” because all are about repressed women enduring a mundane suburban existence and trapped by an unyielding and harsh patriarchy. Even Haynes brilliant 2011 HBO mini-series “Mildred Pierce” captured some of the same themes.

Carol, like Far from Heaven, contains issues of coming out and the process of a sexual awakening, but they are not the single focus of their respective films. They just form subplots in narratives that are richer, more complex, and more emotionally profound. The film unfolds in a very delicate and resonant matter. The story works in the tropes of a forbidden romance story fueled by rich themes of emotional connection, fearless desire, passion, and of course the fulfillment of finding love. This is certainly one of the year’s finest films. Cate Blanchett and Mara Rooney are a revelation in these roles. There isn’t one false note in their exchanges or performance here. Seek this film out now!