Stars: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacy, John Magaro.
Director: Todd Haynes
Screenplay: Phyllis Nagy
Subtext. Subtext has been a tool used by many to read into a look, a touch, a framing, a moment between two characters that has been either read into or placed covertly into a scene. There can be a dominant or oppositional reading of any moment on film—which one is which is really up to the viewer. What Carol does so well is it uses the convention of the subtext and allows what could be read as the oppositional as the dominant reading.
This film is built on the stolen glance that lurks that little too long, framing importance on a glove, a passing touch, or longing stare. This form of filmic language has been used for the hidden relationship that if you didn't read more into it then did that interaction even exist? This oppositional form of reading has been used by many for just these type of relationships; same sex relationships.
As everything that is not seen as "appropriate" or "normal" has had to live in this oppositional space in filmic history. Just like these two women, their love must be hidden under this guise; a new and close friendship that could be seen as innocent while really it is hiding a true connection of infatuation and love.
These little moments brings this film to light. As I have spent so long reading into scenes and using oppositional reading that these small moments become so big as they are hiding something so real. This is really the first time in a while where a film has captured that language of real life interactions; reading into gestures, sending out the same meaning in your gesture, and hoping that you are reading this interaction correctly. The air of attraction is so thick in these scenes that you are sure the whole world can see through it, but in reality most will see it as it is; a woman paying for a train set for her young daughter from the young woman behind the desk.
Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett are at the top of their game in Carol. Mara who has the more subtle, quiet role of Therese Belivet delves into her character using body language more than actual words. She is alluring within the frame as her gaze become the focus of many of the scenes. Though Blanchett has the title role of Carol Aird, it is Therese's gaze that creates the mystery of Carol. She is this enigma that Therese cannot escape, she doesn't understand the trance Carol places her under yet she doesn't really need to. She is so captivating that it is her pleasure to gaze at her from the passenger seat, in the other bed, or across the table.
However what Therese doesn't realise is that Carol is just as intrigued from her side of the relationship as she is ever surprised by Therese's responses to her. This quiet girl who seems reserved until her take on the world is revealed. She isn't afraid of this forbidden relationship even if she is naive going in. From the first moment they meet they both know this is more than an infatuation, more than an intrigue, more than an experiment. This is love and as hard as that is, it is undeniable; they had no real chance of escape.
Beyond the beauty of the acting and tone, this movie is simply stunning. With the ever present inspiration of Edward Hopper in both cinematography and mood, this films beauty bleeds off the screen. It invites you into this nostalgia of a time that never really existed. Of a time where decadence is imbued with the feeling of isolation within the crowd, within the busy Manhattan streets. Every frame is a picture, a picture that you would hang on your wall and fall into it every time you set your eyes upon it. Todd Haynes has created a moving image that you fall into. The score allures you in and allows you to feel what you are seeing. The notes are deep, dark, and full of emotion; the emotions of need, secrecy, urgency. It creates the feeling of the intensity while also creating the sense of fear and forbidden-ness, the fear of the world destroying such a beautiful thing, that thing being love.