The 1950’s are often claimed to have been the ‘golden decade’ of the 20th Century. Whilst in terms of prosperity and affordability it may have been, in other ways it was one of the worst. The attitudes of the era reflected the last vestiges of the antiquated Victorian mind-set held over from the previous century. ‘Carol’ explores how this impacts on a blossoming relationship. A same-sex love story avoiding the usual ‘tragedy angle’ Hollywood loves to peddle, it’s a fair romantic drama defying the odds of a more closed-minded age.
In a loveless marriage of convenience, Carol (Cate Blanchett) feels trapped. Wanting more from her life, an opportunity unexpectedly surfaces. Meeting department store clerk Therese (Rooney Mara), Carol instantly feels a connection. Beginning a fulfilling partnership, their bond is threatened by Carol’s husband Harge (Kyle Chandler). Determined to hold onto their love, Carol and Therese aim to break free of the shackles of a less enlightened time.
Exploring issues of identity and loneliness, ‘Carol’ provides some absorbing viewing. Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel, it benefits from strong performances and motivated characters. You understand Carol’s and Therese’s actions as, coming from opposite ends of the social ladder, they search for common ground. Forced to be discreet due to the social mores of the era, the relationship is made believable by the fine leads.
Todd Haynes’ muddled direction unfortunately dilutes much of ‘Carol’s impact. Whilst the production design, acting and photography are fine, the emotional weight the story needs rarely surfaces. Events move at a glacial pace with sequences needed to make the script less confusing missing. The gist of what the story tries to convey is evident but how it’s executed poorly done. That isn’t to say ‘Carol’ is a bad film, just one needing extra depth to make it stand out.
Although rose-coloured memories will always ensure the 1950’s will be seen as an idyllic era, ‘Carol’ shows it wasn’t all fantastic. The engrossing subject matter ensures ‘Carol’ remains watchable as is the knowledge how far society has progressed in the decades since.
Movie Review Rating out of 10: 6
Movie Review by Patrick Moore
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