Film Notes: Carol (2015) directed by Todd Haynes


UK – US / 118 min / color / Karlsen/Woolley/Number 9 Films, Killer Films Dir: Todd Haynes Pro: Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley & Christine Vachon Scr: Phyllis Nagy, based on the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith Cine: Ed Lachman Mus: Carter Burwell Cast: Cate Blanchett (Caril Aird), Rooney Mara (Therese Belivet), Kyle Chandler (Harge Aird), Sarah Paulson (Abby Gerhard), Jake Lacy (Richard Semco), John Magaro (Dannie), Cory Michael Smith, Carrie Brownstein, Kevin Crowley, Nik Pajic Release Date: 17 May 2015 ( Cannes Film Festival [in competition]); 20 November 2015 (United States); 27 November 2015 (United Kingdom); 5 February 2016 (Spain) IMDb Rating: 7.3

Begoña and I have recently seen Carol. The film stands out mainly because it is very well told, and counts with some excellent performances (both on their leading roles as on their supporting roles).

Carol_film_poster The Price of Salt, Highsmith’s second novel (after Strangers on a Train), was published under the pseudonym Claire Morgan. It garnered wide attention as a lesbian novel because of its rare happy ending. She did not publicly associate herself with this book until late in her life.

Synopsis: Set in 1950s New York, two women from very different backgrounds find themselves in the throes of love in Carol. As conventional norms of the time challenge their undeniable attraction, an honest story emerges to reveal the resilience of the heart in the face of change.

A young woman in her 20s, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), is a clerk working in a Manhattan department store and dreaming of a more fulfilling life when she meets Carol (Cate Blanchett), an alluring woman trapped in a loveless, convenient marriage. As an immediate connection sparks between them, the innocence of their first encounter dims and their connection deepens.

While Carol breaks free from the confines of marriage, her husband (Kyle Chandler) threatens her competence as a mother when Carol’s involvement with Therese and close relationship with her best friend Abby (Sarah Paulson) comes to light. As Carol leaves the comfort of home to travel with Therese, an internal journey of self-discovery coincides with her new sense of space.

Directed by Todd Haynes and written by Phyllis Nagy, Carol beautifully speaks to the transforming nature of characters within the road movie genre. In an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s seminal novel The Price of Salt, and with moving performances from a cast including Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy and Cory Michael Smith— Carol reminds audiences that desire is often expressed in the absence of personal joy. (Source: Cannes Press Notes)

Carol Production Notes (Source: Cannes Press Notes)

Carol vividly depicts the transitional period of the 1950s following the end of World War II. America is marked by feelings of both paranoia and optimism. As the post-war years ushered in many voices of change, 28-year-old crime author Patricia Highsmith wrote her second novel, The Price of Salt, about an unlikely attraction and love affair between two women living in New York City— Therese Belivet and Carol Aird. Published in 1952, the sexual candour explored in Highsmith’s words made the book one of the seminal pieces of literature to come out of the era.

Emmy-nominated writer Phyllis Nagy (Mrs. Harris) adapted the screenplay from Highsmith’s original novel as director Todd Haynes brought the story of Carol to life for audiences today. Haynes was driven to recount Therese and Carol’s controversial relationship with a film that captured the social climate of the 1950s.

Carol follows the unexpected love affair between two women of different ages and different social settings,” said Haynes. “A young woman in her early 20s, Therese, is embarking on life when she meets Carol Aird, an alluring older woman who has one daughter and is beginning to go through a divorce. As these two women become infatuated and entranced by each other, they begin to confront the conflicts their attraction provokes.” Haynes wanted to draw on the aspect of unforeseen love as both Therese and Carol struggle to understand the signs and signals guiding their emotions.

The film portrays a unique time in history where society “followed a prescribed path,” said Haynes. Carol realizes how unfulfilled she feels in her marriage to Harge, a wealthy investment banker. Layering into Carol’s uncertainty, Therese’s character emerges in a similar state of confusion with a devoted boyfriend named Richard by her side. A paradigm shift of prescriptive relationships quickly makes its way into the plot.

Carol is a love story that depicts how truth is the ultimate tonic. If you’re emotionally truthful to who you are and what you believe in, good things may not happen, but you will become a better person,” said writer Phyllis Nagy. The emotional turmoil central to the characters in the film is rooted in the conventional worlds both Carol and Therese have built around them.

Producer Elizabeth Karlsen saw a beautiful adaptation in Nagy’s script as she felt, “it was just such a fine piece of work.” When coupled with Haynes’ direction, the brave and fearless roles of Carol and Therese underscore the sentiment of the film’s themes. The many faces of love evolve out of pain as the characters find courage to be who they want to be, despite unchartered territory.

Haynes paints a beautiful picture of a particularly radical time in history as society’s openness to homosexual emotions and desires began to shift in the 1950s. The film gives audiences a realistic glimpse into the challenges and hardships of a love not lead by example. The contemporary relevance of the film offers a foreshadowing perspective of what it means to have true happiness in life.

Official website (The Weinstein Company)

‘Carol’: Cannes Review at The Hollywood Reporter

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