I think that Carol is the best movie we have seen this year, even better than my beloved Mad Max, Fury Road (but not by much). It is a love story that takes place in the fifties and, unlike Bridge of Spies, it feels like the fifties more than a movie about the fifties. The movie moves along slow and deep – for lack of a better way to describe it – rather than flitting along the top of the action. Carol stars Rooney Mara as a young naif temping in the toy department, of what used to be called a Department Store, during the Christmas rush and Cate Blanchett is Carol, a wealthy, suburban, mother. They are both terrific.
As the movie went on, Blanchett increasingly reminded me of my mother which was both disconcerting and distancing. At one point, a gesture of no consequences, putting on a clip-on earing after a phone call, almost took my breath away with its familiarity. A big part of that is the look and feel that Carol exudes. The colors and textures – of everything, of the wallpaper, the furniture, the cars – feels so familiar. The core of the movie, the lover’s attraction, permeates everything; so does the feeling of dread, of repression, of the danger and risk brought on by that attraction. As an aside, this was a time when women had the vote but, usually, no real agency. My parents got divorced about five years after this story and my mother had her credit cards – which were only for gas as I recall, stores having their in-house cardless credit – taken away. It being assumed that, without being married, a woman couldn’t have credit. End aside.
Embarrassingly, I didn’t know the director, Todd Haynes. I say embarrassingly, because the movie seems so personal. Each frame the work of an artist not a committee. Lush and minimalist at the same time, every frame, every scene is perfect in its composition and contribution to the story. If you like moving pictures, you will like this moving picture.