feedingbrett’s review published on Letterboxd:
It is in the film’s refusal to convey the emotions of its two leading characters in such a reductive and easily consumable form that allows Carol to resonate, their motivations is not as easy as simply being with one another, it is about self-realisation and passionate liberty, to finally understand that space within this world where they can feel at their most comfortable, and to find these qualities within the construct of another human being is what makes the experience all the more rewarding.
It’s titular character, played by Cate Blanchett, is in the midst of finalising her divorce, with a husband that is not yet ready to severe their relationship, but she personally finds little satisfaction in withholding herself from who she truly is, there is undeniable affection she shares for her husband, and prominently more so with her daughter, the only primary factor that has delayed this separation to be finalised. It is in her melancholy for passionate love and the unexplainable chemistry that has led her to the fortunate stumbling to Therese Belivet, a young 20-something who works at a department store, whom herself is undergoing through a yearning of her own.
Therese proves to be the far more inviting character with complexities in her personal desires, attempting to belong in a world that has yet to shown acceptance for her needs, temporarily blinded by her opportunities and potential due to the rigid structure of society, a personal epiphany that was only triggered when having met and progressed her relationship with Carol. Therese has led a life in conformity, willingly allowing herself to explore and agree to relationships that only temporarily compensate for her real needs rather than completely fulfilling them.
Together they embark on a trip, fittingly at a time of the Christmas season that allows their personal emotions to feel rather heightened and metaphorically demonstrate their advancement to a newer shade of themselves in the upcoming turn of the year. It was here that locks within certain doors within them were finally unlocked, realising aspects of themselves that brings such joy and fulfilment when tapped upon, knowing that being with one another is the best step, and not only to overcome a particular loneliness and dissatisfaction that has for long lingered in their hearts, but to finally earn that blissful charge in life that makes every single day worth living.
Of course, given at the time of it’s setting, restrictions attempt to overcome their attachment, but director Todd Haynes and writer Phyllis Nagy refuses to elevate the film to such dramatic proportions that society itself would physically arrive at their doorstop to pull them apart, instead it keeps itself relatively intimate, within the proper confines of their own relationships, allowing Kyle Chandler’s Harge - in an award deserving performance - as Carol’s husband, to play as the notable suppressor, but rather than easily making him an antagonist of their personal ideals, his motivations are instead led by his own personal relationship with his wife, and how his desire for her to stay with him causes him to resort to such brutal measures, he merely uses Carol’s present waters of sexuality to disintegrate the rope that is pulling her away from him, and by this I mean Therese.
Carol is very much a film about its characters, it sinks the audience into the dwelled emotions and what we absorbs are profound and invigorating. All of the film’s technical components, whether it may be the cinematography by Edward Lachman, the music by Carter Burwell, or the costume design by Heather Loeffler all exist to amplify these characters, and through them, allowing the film’s thought-provoking and emotionally triggering components to resonate with its viewers. This is an outstanding film because it refrains itself from becoming about the social issue at hand, at least in an obvious way, it respects and is passionate foremost with the narrative and the characters at hand, and simply more films need to follow suit.