A beautiful, subtle film that seems better than it actually is.
My second film of the year is Carol, the lesbianic period drama that is likely to be nominated for hosts of awards this year. It is a film that has great camerawork, design, a tantalising screenplay and three fantastic lead performances. So on paper it should be one of the best film ever made; and it certainly has been loved by the critics. However it’s not, the resulting film although technically fantastic is somewhat bland and forgettable.
The heart of the story comes from the blossoming romance between the young Therese (Rooney Mara) and the older seductress Carol (Cate Blanchett). As the two fall in love we are also given an insight into Carol’s failing relationship with her ex-husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) and see the strained choices Carol has to make. Each character is given time to develop slowly and the actors excel in bringing them to life.
It is beautifully crafted and designed. Creating a realistic yet cinematic view of New York in the 1950’s. But if you put all these technical things to one side, the film is nothing but another over character driven drama/romance. Although it feels tense and emotive, these emotions soon wear off as you realise that it is in fact just Brief Encounter remade, again, with lesbians.
The direction of the film relies on intricacy and subtlety. Every aspect seems to have a meaning in some way and the cleverly written dialogue leads to plenty of pauses and meaningful looks between characters. This works well on the most part and allows us to feel the genuine love between Therese and Carol, whilst also experiencing the heartbreak Harge is going through. It is unfortunately this emphasis on relationships involving Carol that for me make the film suffer.
Carol is not a nice person and throughout the film is not portrayed as kind in any way. She is rich woman, who knows exactly what she wants and willing to take it; not matter the price. This is shown in the very first meeting between Carol and Therese, where instead of buying her daughter a doll for Christmas, she purchases a train set because Therese told her too. This sort of action continues for a long time as Carol has to choose between her family and her love for Therese. Only the relationship with Therese to me doesn’t seem as real from Carol’s side; Carol spends much of the film grooming Therese. Touching her arm, buying her gifts, posing for photographs; without ever seeming to get to know her. Then when the relationship with Therese threatens the custody of her daughter Carol simply drops her.
Although Blanchett does perform the role of Carol brilliantly I spent the entire film confused over her motives and whether she actually cared for Therese was just some older woman looking for a bit of fun. I’m not sure if this was an intentional choice, but I feel that it wasn’t and it seemed to distract from the real heart of the story.
Carol is film that will be nominated for awards and which critics rightly love, but for me it just felt like every other character driven drama and is one that I am likely to forget.