It’s official, The Season has started. No, DUH, we’re not talking about Christmas, we’re talking about The Awards Season. Although admittedly both involve sparkle, infighting and boozy parties, the awards season just contains more Botox. And an early front runner is Carol. Nominated for 5 Golden Globes it won Rooney Mara Best Actress at Cannes but, far more importantly, took home the Golden Frog at the Camerimage festival. Now that’s a gong The Sloth would like on our mantelpiece.
Carol (Cate Blanchett) is a rich, bored housewife in 1950’s New York. Icily beautiful, she glides around her expensive home, cigarette artfully poised, in cashmere twinsets, perfect red lipstick and immaculately waved hair. Her days are spent shopping, having lunch and occasional playing with her daughter, the product of her loveless marriage. Wafting through a department store she comes across shop assistant Therese (Rooney Mara). Her Audrey Hepburn-esq looks and naive, innocent air capture Carol’s attention and she invites her to lunch. Which leads to an affair, which leads to a deeper relationship. But this is 1950’s America, where such things are not exactly acceptable, not least because Carol is married with a child, and fractious divorce proceedings ensue.
At first glance, this is the kind of cool, poised role Cate Blanchett could do in her sleep. But as the film progresses she gives us an increasingly complex character study that often leaves us unsure of Carol’s motives: is Therese just her latest plaything or is she genuinely in love with her? Much has been made of the film movingly exposing the impossibility of being gay in a less tolerant era, which it does, but that almost over simplifies it. Carol is as much about making choices between following your heart versus your head – should true love be pursued at the expense of destroying family? – and is a stronger, more rounded film for it.
Impeccably acted and stunningly shot in dreamy, hypnotic visuals that are eye-bogglingly perfect, Carol will lull you into another world. Beautiful, intelligent AND passes The Bechdel Test with flying colours. Films like this don’t come along too often. Don’t miss it.
UK release 27 November