“Carol” opens as Carol Aird (Cate Blanchette) meets Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) while shopping for a doll for her daughter. It’s a random kind of moment, and this film is much too serious for a “meet-cute” scene. But you know there’s more to the meeting, because as Carol looks away, she looks back at Therese, and Therese catches her eye. The look back test – there’s nothing more dangerous, more passionate than that. It’s a prelude to love, and you better believe it.
But this is still the 50s, and loving someone of the same sex is frowned upon, and we see Carol and Therese do a cautious dance, until they eventually go to lunch, and fall in love. Todd Haynes, the director, does this is a very slow manner and I have to confess I thought the pace was deadly slow. But this is a melodrama, and like a Douglas Sirk outing, we get the dramatic complications: Carol’s husband won’t let her go, and uses their daughter as a pawn – there’s even a private detective scene that is kind of corny by today’s standards. Blanchette and Mara give quiet integrity to their roles that you don’t care – you just take it, and everything is instantly believable. If I had to take a pick between the two performances, I will pick Mara’s : it’s Hepburn-esque and more subtle than Blanchette’s more showy performance. But what I find most magnificent about this movie is that it accurately shows that feeling of being in love, as very few movies nowadays are able to convey that. This is love with a Capital L : it’s soaring, it’s deep, it hits you square in your chest. If you have ever been in love (I mean, let’s face it, we all have) you will find yourself identifying with what these characters are feeling.