Dir: Todd Haynes
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler
This adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel The Price of Salt set in New York of 1950s has two women from diverse backgrounds falling in love. The time was obviously not conducive to public outpourings, the conventions of those days were not receptive and the many hurdles they have to put up with render the continuance of their love story almost impractical. But the two women in the centre of the storm have to dig deep within themselves to stay true to their hearts.
A still from the movie 'Carol'
Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), a clerk at a department store, dreams of a fulfilling life when she meets Carol (Cate Blanchett), an attractive woman trapped in a loveless marriage. There's attraction between the two that sparks a deeper connection, which, in turn, triggers personal upheavals in their individual lives but both women are up to the task.
Patricia's book has been a subject of LGBT studies for its depiction of 1950s conformist America. It's a forbidden love story that gains validation in the adventurous though criminal getaway designed to make their love memorable. Carol and her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) are in the throes of an escalated divorce battle with recriminations flying all around when she raises the gauntlet and whisks Therese away on a road trip across America that could stretch towards the salvation of their love.
Haynes and his principal actors manage to convey the acute loneliness felt by those in unconventional relationships that society frowns upon. The agony and the ecstasy are all conveyed in fleeting, nuanced moments through exquisitely drawn body language and facial expressiveness.
The only thing that disallows complete immersion is the manner in which the point of view shifts. The book was told from Therese's point of view while the film shifts uncomfortably between the two.
As a result, Therese doesn't get a back story that might have rounded off her character. Yet Mara comes up with a complex performance that straddles empathy and understanding in equal degree. Blanchett perfectly fits this role. Her every move is a considered appropriation and when she lets go that façade, there's vulnerability and strength on display.
The two actresses manage to emphasise the bond of love with such intensity and grace that it appears all so rare and beautiful to behold. The Academy will certainly have a tough time denying them the glory of just rewards.