Directed By: Todd Haynes

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler, and Jake Lacy

I've just about covered all the films in the mix this awards season, excluding The Revenant and 45 Years.  Throughout this year’s litany of films, I've mentioned that there was an uptick in the number of adaptations, and I still believe this holds true.  The Danish Girl, The Big Short, and Concussion have all continued this trend over the last couple of weeks.  Now, we have yet another adaptation in this week's Carol.  Based on The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, Todd Haynes's adaptation may have taken longer than its competitors to arrive on the big screen.  With the first draft having been written nineteen years ago and the project having been in development for the past eleven years, Carol has been a long time in the making.  Having seen it, I'm happy to report that it is indeed worth the wait.

Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) is a young woman working at a toy store in New York.  One day, she's enchanted by this glamorous customer looking for a Christmas present for her daughter.  This customer's name is Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett).  Therese recommends that Carol purchase a train set for her daughter.  Carol takes her advice.  In the midst of the transaction, Carol leaves her gloves at the store.  Therese, ever the Good Samaritan, sends these gloves to Carol along with the train set.  When the set arrives, Carol calls the store to thank Therese for the excellent selection and for returning the gloves.  To thank the girl, she invites Therese out to join her for a meal.  From there, they begin truly connecting as sparks fly.  Meanwhile, Therese dodges offers to move to Paris and get married from her boyfriend Richard (Jake Lacy).  With the help of her longtime friend and former lover Abby Gerhard (Sarah Paulson), Carol contends with her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) and his desperate, controlling attempts to keep them together.

is an outstanding motion picture in every way.  Written based on strong source material from Highsmith, directed nimbly by Todd Haynes, and acted beautifully by the superb cast on hand, this adaptation is not a high-flying drama full of bravado performances or heavy-handed direction.  It's a much more understated affair that subtly tackles the persecution of the era that our lead characters endure to share a kind of romance that was uncommon at the time, at least in the public sphere.  All the signs are right there in front of moviegoers.  You can see it in the golden yellowish cinematography used to set the stage for the 1950's-set movie.  You can hear it in the heavenly soundtrack of the film that can sweep you off your feet in one moment and have you tapping your feet in the next.  Yes, Carol is an exquisite piece of cinema unlike any of the other contenders in the awards season hunt this year.

Our titular character Carol is a mysterious, alluring creature at her best and an oppressed, worn down mother at her worst.  In supreme command of her craft, Cate Blanchett brings undeniable swagger and unabated sensuality to her intriguing portrayal of Carol.  It's less about what she says on screen and more about all the nonverbal cues of her performance.  Simply put, her looks can kill.  Costume designer Sandy Powell certainly adds to Carol's mystery and allure by creating glamorous outfits befitting the era.  At the same time, Blanchett's Carol is a figure tormented by the choices she's made and the people she's loved.  Haynes opts not to show the psychotherapy and other treatments of the day for lesbians that Carol most certainly endures.  Instead he gambles on Blanchett to convey the anguish and suffering her character endures in the shackles of traditional marriage.  With grace and poise, she does exactly that in a tragically beautiful take on the character that adds depth to the glitz and glamor of the more enchanting Carol to which we’re initially introduced.

Therese is an equally fascinating character for different reasons.  While Carol is an older woman who has accepted that she prefers women, Therese is just at the beginning of this journey, and this really plays well with regard to the more romantic aspects of the film.  For her part as Therese, Rooney Mara is able to convey a youth and an innocence as she grapples with the real feelings she has for Carol.  She's a woman discovering her sexuality and what she truly prefers.  Mara also gives us an emotional character willing to shoulder the blame.  With all that's happening in Carol's life, she certainly tortures herself unnecessarily.  As the film progresses, however, Therese breaks out of her cocoon.  Mara ultimately transitions her into a confident woman who knows what she wants from life and love.

is an understated romantic drama where what's not being said reigns supreme.  Well done in every way, this tale of love and intolerance gets a sober rating.  Indie lovers, don't miss this one.