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Carol - review

Feb 12, 2016 Film & TV

Lush, gorgeous, thoroughly noir-inflected: Carol, adapted by director Todd Haynes and screenwriter Phyllis Nagy from Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 romance The Price of Salt, is a slow-building romance, you could almost say romantic thriller, based around two extraordinary performances. Cate Blanchett is poised and enigmatic in the title role; Rooney Mara plays Therese, the young New York sales clerk who falls helplessly in love with her.

As good as Blanchett is, and she’s very good, it’s Mara I found transfixing: Therese is young and uncertain, but strong-willed and determined to hold her own in a relationship which, in 1952, qualifies as a dangerous secret. She’s a much more equal match for Blanchett’s formidable Carol than she first appears.

Haynes’ last film was I’m Not There, a fantastically multifaceted not-quite-biopic of Bob Dylan, in which Blanchett, among others, played Dylan.

This is a far less formally adventurous film; its structure and its swooning visual sensibility are almost tamely conventional. They have to be. Convention is the box within which Carol and Therese are forced to maintain the appearance of tame lives. It’s a quiet film, but cut across with smouldering sight-lines: we watch as the two lovers watch each other’s every breath. Sometimes, it’s as the screen will catch fire.


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