Carol is an extraordinary film that renders declarations and sentiments of love utterly meaningless throughout most of its running time. Instead, mere momentary glances, small gestures and behavioural quirks are the embodiment of the central romance between the titular character Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) and Therese Belivet. (Rooney Mara)
For example in their first meeting, Therese is looking around the department store where she works and when the camera brings Carol into focus, the young woman has a look of utter curiosity, when staring at her. The moment is strengthened when the older woman notices the glance and the two share a meaningful encounter.
Rooney Mara is exceptional as the young Therese. Her shy and naive nature are captivating as the film primarily explores her feelings during the deeply passionate weeks that she spends with Carol. Her subtle character arc is excellent as she initially starts out as a person who views things from a distance and is quick to saying yes without any forethought. However, by the end of the film, she has undergone maturation that results in her having a better sense of self and new- found confidence in her form of expression, which is photography.
Cate Blanchett is equally compelling as Carol. Her appearance and demeanour throughout the film brought to mind the classic Hollywood starlets of yesteryear. One particular sequence that is emblematic of this quality is when Therese is in a car and takes a photograph of Carol in the middle of a snowy shopping trip. The picture that she takes is revisited throughout the film and essentially represents Carol at her most appealing.
However, this strong facade is shattered in a scene in the tail end of the film. Carol tries to appeal to her husband that she has to see her daughter and be in her life. Blanchett’s tear-inducing fragility and shaken vocal tones make the scene stand out as a culmination of Carol’s underlying sadness.
Nevertheless, the beginning sequence of the picture is the scene that illustrates the before stated strength of the film. One of Therese’s friends interrupts a lavish dinner that she is having with Carol. There are a series shots that are focused on the subtle details throughout the scene.
For example, Therese’s eyes darting back and forth between her male friend and most crucially, a shot of Carol’s gloved hand resting upon Therese’s shoulder as she bids them both farewell. The shots in the scene speak to the film’s deft cinematic portrait of the small moments in relationships that have resonance and meaning for the people in the midst of it.