Director: Todd Haynes
Therese (Mara) works at a toy counter in a department store and when she meets glamorous housewife Carol (Blanchett) in the store, there is an instant spark between them. Returning the gloves that Carol deliberately left behind, Therese is pulled into a whirlwind romance just as Carol is going through an ugly divorce with her husband (Chandler), who is aware of her previous sexual history. Determined to prevent Carol from seeing her daughter, he begins to employ increasingly devious tactics to win sole custody of the child, leaving Carol an increasingly desperate wreck.
This is probably Blanchett's finest work, which is saying a lot considering her recent renaissance of film roles. Carol is a complicated and strong character, whose slow unravelling is a distressing watch. But for me, just like the Cannes Grand Jury who awarded her their Best Actress prize, the real star is Rooney Mara. Therese is a quiet and withdrawn character, who slowly smoulders with longing and a thirst for personal discovery that provides the steady bedrock against which Blanchett dazzles in the showier role. Chandler provides strong support as the wronged husband, while Sarah Paulson is a strong counterpoint to Carol's hysteria as her headstrong ex-lover Abbie.
Carol also flirts with various genres, at times feeling like a road-trip movie, at others a drama about social injustice. Veering toward moments of heightened drama, Haynes shows measured restraint in maintaining the focus that essentially this is a story about love, rather than heading into cheaper plot devices. Though there are moments when it could do with a little more pace, its self-discipline is what makes you root for their love to overcome the obstacles, hoping above hope that the universe will let them be together. But with the odds stacked so firmly against them, their motivations and complexities are absorbed by the camera through looks, smiles and eye movements that say about as much as any line of dialogue could. But despite this, the script is still so rich that it stands alongside some of the most quotable love stories ever put on film. "Why should I go against my grain?" Carol asks of her husband. And we all demand his answer, which never actually comes.