Driven by the strong chemistry between leads Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett, Carol is an insightful and thought provoking study of forbidden love. Mara plays Therese Belivet, a young and lonely woman who lives in Manhattan and works in a department store selling toy dolls. Enamoured after an interaction with a striking customer named Carol (Blanchett), Belivet begins to develop an ever growing fervorous relationship with the separated and lonely mother.
Performances are excellent all around, however Blanchett gives an especially strong and emotional tenure as the titular Carol. Subtle but powerful, Blanchett's portrayal is understated and heartfelt and particularly believable. This is elevated immensely by the very real compatibility she shares with Mara as on-screen couple. The two play off of each other wonderfully and watching their interactions evolve from two strangers to amorous lovers feels incredibly natural and real. Mara also shines individually as Belivet, truly embodying the character's timidness and feeling of loneliness and projecting them in a noticeable yet restrained manner. Together the two make formidable competition for the best actress categories come awards season.
While not particularly noteworthy in the visual department save for a few shots, the calm and modest camera work aids the film tonally a great deal. The mix of cold and warm colours along with the gentle direction on the part of Todd Haynes lends to a sense of rigid isolation in some instances, and in others warm acceptance. The soundtrack is fantastic and perfectly accentuates the visuals; comprised of 50s radio tunes and swelling free motifs, the film is audibly fluid in a way that feels just right. The editing is also something to note, as the film carries at a steady rhythmic pace that neither drags nor gets ahead of itself, leaving a very satisfying flow of temporal events.
Carol is an emotional and poignant venture into a sad reality of proscribed love. Technically proficient, it is elevated beyond simply being 'good' by the wonderful cast and the seamless manner in which all the pieces fit together. Those who can invest emotionally in such a dramatic love story (a task made easy by the dynamic and spirited stars) will be rewarded by an absorbing and inspirational tale of love, lust and shame that will leave you contemplative long after the credits have rolled.