I went into this film knowing and expecting an amazing performance from Cate Blanchett. I was not disappointed! I do however think that the limelight has been taken from her co star Rooney Mara. she gives her best performance as she struggles to find out who she is and to get away from the traditional husband and wife and chase happiness with a woman.
I think this film is more about Therese than Carol and her character is far more interesting and far more likeable. She falls for Carol, a beautiful, intelligent and wealthy woman. she herself is innocent and has never pushed boundaries before. She has a talent for photography, but is hemmed in behind the counter at the local store. Carol is a fantasy and someone who would be out of reach for many as she strolls in with fur coats and sparkling jewellery.
This isn’t a film questioning sexuality as both women know what they want. They cannot be open about this and although many do not believe that it is right for woman and woman be together it is understood that such relationships exist. The understanding back then was that this was something that could be treated with psychiatry. Of course we all know this is nonsense.
They do not fight their sexuality they battle the life that their sexuality brings them. Carol is almost treated as a pervert and lacking morality. This leads to a long and painful divorce as well as custody battle. Carol has to choose between living the life of a lesbian or keeping her child.
It is clear that Carols husband knows of her sexuality. He is a man who gets what he wants and becomes increasingly frustrated when he cannot have the perfect family. Therese has a suiter, but cannot go further than a kiss. A kiss that she suffers rather than enjoys with men. It is a time when sex came after marriage, so in that respect she can cover up her lack of interest in sex because of the times she lives in.
Carol is far more experienced in life and this is not her first attraction to women. She is worldly, she smokes, she is elegant and gets what she wants. She loves her daughter, but can she fully commit to her daughter and deprive herself of the life she wants. Carol is at a point in life where she knows what she wants and it isn’t men, well at least not sexually.
The sexual tension is filmed beautifully. I always think the old films were far better at building tension, but this film is an exception. The touch on the shoulder felt from a woman is like a tremor across the body leaving an ache for more. The touch of a man is portrayed as harsh and heavy with a dull thud. This elegantly shows the wild attraction between the two women.
There is a great deal of pain for all involved. Rooney shows her distress in the most beautiful way. Her eyes show her wanting, her shyness, her determination, her sadness and her heartbreak. I would place her performance above that of Cates. There are no questions about whether they are attracted, but only of the cost to themselves and those around them.
This is a slow moving film with great performances from all involved. Certainly an early Oscar look out. The story is simple and despite the fact that this is two women as lovers it doesn’t seem to really push any boundaries or reveal any battles in society, but merely focuses on the two women falling in love. It’s almost like taking a photo of the subject and being so focused that everything surrounding them becomes a blur.
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