by Ben Diamond


Carol (Haynes 2015, 118m)

I liked Carol, but I’m not sure I liked it as much as everyone else did.  In fact, I’m sure I didn’t like it anywhere near as much as everyone else seems to have done. The levels of hype on this one seem to have snowballed to such an extent that it stikes me as odd, the amount of noise generated for what is really a quiet, reserved piece, a mood piece, really.

It reminded me of Tom Ford’s A Single Man, the adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s novel.  Here, director Todd Haynes has adapted Patricia Highsmiths’s novel The Price of Salt, which takes place exactly a decade before A Single Man, in 1952.  It still has the Mad Men feel, the revelling in the period details.  It does look fantastic.

But beneath the surfaces, the detailed interiors, through the windows, in the car, through the cigarette smoke, I was left with nothing to hold on to.

Rooney Mara plays Therese – young, nervous, introverted, sort of into men. Cate Blanchett’s Carol – the older, more experienced of the two, who has been in a relationship with a woman before – strides into the department store where Therese works, the two fall for each other, and we go on from there.

Why do they fall for each other, though?  I wasn’t sure, even by the end.  I wasn’t satisfied that the two were ever really in love.  In fact, they never really seem to have a direct conversation about their own relationship. Which I suppose is the point, partly.

The relationship hits the rocks when Carol realises that her (soon to be ex-) husband is using her relationship with Therese as leverage in the divorce settlement, where he is pushing for sole custody of their child.

I found the character of Harge, Carol’s husband, to be something of a cardboard cutout, not properly fleshed out.  The divorce proceedings metastasise and dominate the plot as the film goes on.  Meanwhile, the story of Carol and Therese by this point seems weirdly cold, distant, fast-forwarded, too much shorthand and not much to go on.  The agonised scenes at the lawyer’s office seemed to clash with the subtlety of the rest of the piece.

I must admit that I drifted through this one, slightly bewildered throughout, admiring the craft of the scenes, the photography, the way things looked, but not managing to delve much deeper than that.  There’s a moment where a character is projecting a film and claims to be looking for the discord between what someone is saying and how they’re really feeling.  I sat through Carol trying, and failing, to do much the same thing.