Todd Haynes really can do no wrong. Four years after his excellent miniseries Mildred Pierce premiered, Haynes returns with his sixth feature film Carol. His latest is his third work set in the 1950s – after Far From Heaven and Mildred Pierce – a decade the director clearly knows well. Influenced by Sirk and Fassbinder, Haynes provides a lush romance that teeters between the masterfully restrained and the decadently explosive.
Rooney Mara stars as Therese Belivet, a woman in her twenties working the toy counter at an upscale New York City department store. Seemingly lost, Therese finds herself shaken when she encounters Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), an older woman trapped in a sham marriage. The two form a connection instantly and attempt to build a relationship despite many obstacles, including Carol’s destructive husband Harge (Kyle Chandler).
Carol is the rare film in which all the pieces fit perfectly together. It is clear that the core members of the cast and crew are completely in sync, each complimenting one another’s work. From the costumes by Sandy Powell, to Carter Burwell’s entrancing score, to the cinematography by Edward Lachman, there is really no component that avoids brilliance. Mara and Blanchett are equally incredible, with Mara giving what is perhaps her strongest and most nuanced performance yet.
Haynes has created a coldness that pervades throughout the film, making the sparsely placed scenes of romance increasingly touching. Throughout the last twenty years, Haynes has mastered the melodrama and therefore knows exactly how to place his characters emotions. Carol may not be Todd Haynes’ strongest effort, but it’s a damn fine romance if I’ve ever scene one.
Carol is a masterclass on all fronts and is definitely one of the best films this year.