This is a subtle, moving and deceptive story of two women (brilliantly played in very contrasting styles by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) who refuse to live against ‘their own grain’. Carol is based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, The Price of Salt, published in 1952, but this isn’t the typical Highsmith adaptation. We do see a gun at the bottom of a suitcase and there is a fleeting appearance from a private detective, but there are no murders here or Ripley-style psychopaths up to nefarious games. Instead, this is a very closely focused character study.
Blanchett’s Carol Aird is chafing against the constraints of her role as wife and mother. When she swears, that itself seems as if she is breaking a taboo. Expressing her sexual desire for a woman is another way of rebelling against the rigidly conformist world in which she is trapped. Mara is more subdued as Therese Belivet, a sly young woman working in a New York department store. Early on, we see her face through a rain-spattered windscreen. She is a guarded figure who gives the impression that she is looking in at her own life. Even at the most climactic moments, she keeps her reserve.
It’s hard to imagine a director handling this project more surely than Todd Haynes, a supreme chronicler of feminine emotional pain – from Safe through Far From Heaven and Mildred Pierce, who reasserts his status here as one of the greats. Haynes makes unhappiness beautiful. It makes sense that he’s a fan of Edward Hopper, whose paintings inform this film profoundly. In fact, it’s an Edward Hopper picture as surely as Far From Heaven was a Douglas Sirk picture; think of the diners, the angular rooftops, those forlorn people sitting on the edges of beds.
Both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara received Best Actress nominations in the Golden Globes and BAFTAs and are nominated for Oscars.
Venue: William Loveless Hall