The eponymous Carol (Cate Blanchett) mixes together elegance, confidence, frostiness, sensuality and anxiety. Her marriage to Harge (Kyle Chandler) has unravelled and even though her relationship with good friend Abby (Sarah Paulson) is over, Carol’s continued air of “promiscuity” sets off a bitter custody battle to decide which parent is most morally upright and suited to look after their daughter Rindy.
“I always spend New Year’s alone – in crowds.”
Ambiguity rules throughout the film. Is Therese the first younger woman to be pursued by Carol? How naïve is Therese and how manipulative is Carol? The final scene is a Mona Lisa masterpiece in holding a shot long after every other director would have shouted “cut”, leaving audiences searching for the hint of a facial expression that would provide a definite conclusion.
“You like certain people and you don’t like certain other people. You don’t know what attracts you to them.”
The film occasionally loses its subtly: a gun is signposted a little too obviously and now and again a line of dialogue feels clumsily planted whenever circumstance had already spoken louder than words. Shot on Super 16mm film, close-ups are rare and the colour palette is muted.
As the plot unfolds, the societal tensions and perceptions around same sex attraction become more and more obvious. Therese’s boyfriend Richard (Jake Lacy) offers boring respectability while Carol offers excitement and desire. Even when unsure about the consequences, Therese has a propensity to say ‘Yes’. Can either Richard or Carol win her heart?
Carol opens in the Queen’s Film Theatre on Friday 27 November and runs until Thursday 10 December. It’s also being screened in some of the other local cinema chains.