I watched Todd Haynes’ Carol this week and was moved to silent awe. The film is an examination of human attraction in an age of entrenched patriarchal values. Set at the dawn of Eisenhower’s America in the early nineteen-fifties, it documents an illicit love affair between two women at a crossroads.
Cate Blanchett plays a married woman on the cusp of divorce, a powerful personality who holds her tongue for fear of losing custody rights to her infant daughter. Her love interest is Rooney Mara, a beautiful young woman who is lost in a sea of choices and hungry for authenticity. Both women radiate on screen, their unfolding relationship so pure and captivating to behold.
Adapted from a Patricia Highsmith novel with a powerful script by Phyllis Nagy, the film was fifteen years in the making as veteran indie producers Elizabeth Karlsen and Christine Vachon laboured to bring it to the silver screen. Karlsen puts it so well; “Women have been starved of material and have not been given opportunities to create that material and to have that material distributed.”
The production is delightfully lavish, filled with sets and costumes that bring the modest period drama to life with such acute attention to detail. Beneath the glamour however, Haynes does the impossible, transforming a fringe genre-picture into an accessible narrative. He captures the universal je ne sais quoi of falling in love, delivering visual imagery that socked me right in the gut.
It’s so exciting to come across a film as special as Carol, to know that it was conceived with the love and care of people that never stopped fighting. This is the true meaning of creation, a blind dedication to realizing a vision, bearing the weight of adversity and delivering a finished product that burns bright for all to see.