A. Petković’s review published on Letterboxd:
What did we ever do to deserve Carol?
There is absolutely nothing mediocre about this film, it is exceptional in every way. It pulls you right into the 1950s from the very first scene. Stunning images, attention to detail and perfect framing result in a poetic visual artwork. There are enough shots that could've easily been painted by Edward Hopper himself (e.g. when Carol writes the letter in that diner). It is striking how beautiful sorrow and heartbreak can look like, really. The dreamlike sequences either seem like the artistic equivalent of love or reflect a state of trance, sometimes both. Nevertheless, there are elements of realism that significantly contribute to the authenticity of the story. The distinct color palettes are not only fascinating to look at but also add a certain kind of singularity to the interior spaces. And still, during the night scenes, the vivid and bright colors boldly stand out. If paradise exists, I'm certain it looks like Carol.
Therese and Carol are at very different stages in life when we first encounter them. Therese finds herself earlier in life than Carol does. Her path has already been laid out for her, but when she meets Carol her perception of life, and what it could possibly look like, instantly changes. Her former way of living was determined by societal expectations which left her feeling constrained. This was depicted through the enclosed environments surrounding Therese (with her literally being "confined" to her desk) and her restricted clothing. Obviously, that applies to Carol as well, only in a different way: Carol has already lived a life according to others and found a place within that male-dominated society. Her experiences, responsibilities and her socioeconomic background set her apart from Therese. She tries to uphold a facade that makes her feel less vulnerable but ultimately fails to do so when she falls in love with Therese. At first, Carol might seem superficial and concerned with her own troubles, sometimes staring off into the distance, drifting miles away from the person infront of her. But when you actually think about it, it's not herself that she's worried about. She takes care of other people, whether it be in her role as a mother, as a lover, as a friend or even as a wife.
From early on, we get to understand that the language surrounding the love of these two women is an unspoken one, mostly due to the fact that their relationship was forbidden by law and condemned by society. Of course, Therese was also not able to verbalize what she was feeling because she simply didn't have the language for it. She had never experienced anything like it before. Either way, their true feelings could never be expressed through vocalized or written words. Therefore, the essence of their romance is conveyed through visual metaphors, glances, and looks, body language and music.
Todd Haynes is a mastermind, an incredibly talented and visionary director, there's no doubt about it. However, Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett seem to be the driving forces on screen. Rooney manages to actually draw you into the soul of Therese and make you see the oceanic range of emotions in her eyes. There's a very raw honesty that she adds to the character which I find deeply fascinating. Cate is obviously at the top of her game here, as well. Her seemingly effortless performance is striking and far beyond my imagination. Both of them were able to embody complex characters and fully showcase their inner struggles. Honestly, this kind of talent makes you realize what a pure joy it is to be alive.
One of my favorite things about Carol is the ending sequence. Maybe it is even one of my favorite scenes of all time. As a recurring motif, the train metaphorically shows how everything comes full circle. And, indeed, it does: In the very first scene we hear the sound of a train passing by and in the end, right before the last scene, we hear its sound again. Considering that their relationship began with just a look, it only seems right to end it with one. It is so simple but speaks volumes at the same time. The expressions on their faces, in their eyes, really tell us everything there is to know. There is a moment where Therese hesitates, understandably so, but soon after, she makes a decision, and the music sets in. There is a whole new world that opens up in that moment and from then on we know that there is no going back. How could there be?
With this film, Todd Haynes proves his deep understanding of the essence of love and the complexity of female characters. He embraces the female gaze, masters the art of suspense and beautifully connects a romantic bond with visual style. His direction, the cinematography, the script, the costumes, the score and the set design, everything blends so well. What we're left with is a timeless cinematic masterpiece, and I hope it will be remembered for ages. My feelings towards this film go beyond my ability to express them, but I tried anyway.