I’m a sucker for romance. I think that love in general, and romantic love in particular, is one of the most beautiful things in the world. I treasure every such experience that I’ve had in my life (even though so far, they all ended badly), and am looking forward to experiencing these emotions again (hopefully). For me, there’s definitely something magical about it, and at least in my experience, this “head over heels” kind of love, especially when it’s actually requited, is rarer than we’d like to think. Which is why it always infuriates me when people, due to intolerance, oppression or simple malice, put obstacles in its way.
Enter “Carol”, which tells the story of young Therese and the older Carol, who, one fateful night, fall in love with each other – and in 1950s New York, at that, and thus at a time when homosexual relationships were pretty much unthinkable, and socially shunned. There’s something incredibly tragic about impossible love stories like that, because I’m so infuriated when society, family, religion or who-/whatever stands in the way of two people who love each other and simply want to live and be happy together. In recent years (or rather decades), things slowly started to look up, especially in western countries, but even here, and now, not everything is sunshine and roses. And I just don’t get it. Thus, “Carol” pretty much from the get-go hit a nerve with me, because I wanted nothing more than for Carol and Therese to be able to enjoy their love freely and undisturbed. The movie’s further helped by the stunning performances of both its leads. Cate Blanchett is great as always, but just because she’s always great doesn’t mean that we should simply take that (or her) for granted. Her performance here is so thoughtful and deliberate, that every slightest smirk or gesture gets a plethora of meaning. From the outset, Carol might seem like the cool and controlled one, but Blanchett leaves no doubt about the storm that’s raging inside her. Rooney Mara’s Therese is much more like an open book. She doesn’t really seem to know – or want – to hide her feelings, and wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s also incredibly vibrant and radiant; it’s easy to see why Carol would fall for her, while Therese on the other hand seems to see in Carol the person that she hopes that she’ll grow up to be one day.
Both Blanchett and Mara have absolutely great chemistry together, and I loved that the movie took its time until things got physical. Before that, it’s all in the looks, the gestures, a simple touch here and there. Both sell their growing feelings – and longing – for each other incredibly well, so that when they finally end up in bed together, it’s a release of tension as much for the audience (ok, almost as much) as it is for the characters. Due to their seemingly doomed relationship, it’s all also quite touching, and there were quite a couple of scenes that really moved me. I also loved Sarah Paulson as Abby – her performance as well as the character itself. A former lover of Carol who grew into a close friend, but who – understandably – still resists to have to play babysitter for Therese. That really was a great, interesting dynamic. Kyle Chandler also does quite well with a complicated (and difficult) character who in other hands might have come off as the bad guy of the piece. Instead, we feel that he’s just extremely hurt, and also lost, and simply doesn’t know what to do – thus, he lashes out, not realizing how he’s turning Carol’s life into living hell. And the final shot was also great and proved, like the movie itself, how much can be said with a simple look, instead of words. Pretty much the only thing I didn’t care for was that it’s yet another movie that starts with a scene from near the end. It’s a stylistic device that I’m very weary of, and I don’t think that it was warranted here, or improved the movie in any way. And overall, I have to say that I found the similarly themed “Brokeback Mountain” a little more daring, touching and devastating. Nevertheless, “Carol” is a wonderful film that I’m definitely going to revisit someday.