Starring the fantastic Rooney Mara and the title character played by award-winning Cate Blanchett, Carol examines the difficulties surrounding same-sex relationships in the mid-twentieth century. Set in 1950s Manhattan, Therese Belivet, (Mara) a young department store worker, meets Carol Aird (Blanchett) and the two quickly develop a strong bond.
Of course, given the 1950s setting, the course of true love cannot run smooth. Carol’s embroilment in a rough divorce and custody battle for her daughter puts a spanner in the works, with her jealous and narrow-minded husband determined to exact his revenge for his wife’s supposed deviance.
"the real focus is love, a refreshing look at the history of same-sex relationships"
While the custody battle plotline adds much-needed drama to the film, the real focus is on the development of Therese and Carol’s relationship. The film’s main strength for me was in Mara and Blanchett’s performances; so impeccably and with such subtlety they capture the complications of their illicit affair in its context, as well as the absolute reality of their unconditional love. For me, the fact that the prejudices they face were once a reality, that such a strong bond could be deemed ‘immoral,’ was enough to really pull at the heartstrings.
But society’s distaste is incidental; the real focus is love, a refreshing look at the history of same-sex relationships that doesn’t attempt to create dramatic tension through brutal depictions of unjust persecution. With Mara and Blanchett dominating screen-time, the one-dimensional, misguidedly prejudiced male characters could’ve perhaps been developed more, they didn’t really need to be as Mara and Blanchett’s outstanding on-screen chemistry is enough to carry the entire film.
You simply cannot watch this film without feeling both the absolute sorrow and elation experienced by Therese and Carol. The Oscars are calling…
More like this: A Single Man (2009)