Set amongst the beautiful landscapes of 1950s New York, Carol (2015) is a cinematic journey about the forbidden love which forms between aspiring photographer Therese (Rooney Mara) and older woman Carol (Cate Blanchett). The elegant, picturesque portrayal of the famous city throughout creates a clear parallel with the feelings that Therese begins to develop for her new acquaintance. Therese idolises Carol for both her pleasant nature and classy style, but it soon becomes clear that what she feels towards her is more than just friendship as the narrative develops and their bond deepens. The subtlety of the film’s representation of their relationship makes it a charming love story that gradually draws us further in.
Based on Patricia Highsmith’s romance novel The Price of Salt, Carol respectfully explores the struggles faced by gay women in the 1950s who were forced to repress their sexuality due to societal expectations. The character of Carol, although initially depicted as a woman living a happy, affluent lifestyle, quickly unravels to reveal someone who is trapped in the pressuring existence expected of her. The first act introduces the everyday lives of both main characters, whose social classes may differ yet their shared ‘lack of belonging’ connects them. The audience learns that both women are struggling in their relationships: Therese has a boyfriend who she has mixed feelings for, and Carol is divorcing from her strict husband. The narrative follows both women as they explore their feelings for one another while attempting to maintain the heteronormative lives expected of them.
Both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara were praised for their incredibly engaging and emotive performances, with each actress nominated for Academy Awards and Mara even winning Best Actress at Cannes in 2015. Alongside this recognition for the leading roles, Carol won the Queer Palm at Cannes – a prize that honours the best LGBT-relevant film entered to the festival.
Although Carol explores the struggles of sexuality through the film’s central relationship, it utilises not only dialogue but also the incredibly elegant production and costume design to create a narrative that normalises LGBT+ relationships for the viewer, maintaining an alignment with the romantic-drama genre. The film explores the bond between two women whose dreams and desires are heightened through the 1950s backdrop.
Carol is truly a stand-out film that aims to normalise LGBT+ representation through its gorgeous colours and tones, which completely draw you into its incredible storytelling. It allows the audience to get lost in the waves of romance and drama, able to fully appreciate the compelling lesbian relationship at its core.
Watch the trailer for Carol below: