Whatever its flaws, Todd Haynes’ Carol has to be one of the best looking films of 2015. Lensed by cinematographer Edward Lachman (Far from Heaven), on 16mm film, Carol meticulously takes the viewer back to 1950’s New York. Shot after shot is beautifully framed, and gorgeously colored. From the cars to the clothes of the protagonists, everything is on point. Even the drab, gray New York street is turned into something special by the bright red coat of the ethereal Cate Blanchett.
Based on the Patricia Highsmith book, Carol follows Therese (Rooney Mara), an aspiring photographer working as a clerk in a Manhattan department store. During the Christmas season, Carol Aird (Blanchett), a striking older women comes into the store in search of a gift for her daughter. From the moment the two strike up a conversation, it seems as though they have a connection—one that Therese struggles to understand. Carol leaves her gloves on the counter. Therese returns them, and they agree to meet for lunch. And so the relationship begins.
Cate Blanchett effortlessly carries herself as a woman who has been surrounded by wealth and luxury her entire life. The fur coat she wears appears to be a part of her, and she sips a cocktail with ease. Nonetheless, she has a fragile quality that suggests that her relationship with her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) isn’t close to happy. They’re moving toward divorce, and fighting over custody of their daughter. It’s never explained why Carol, with so much at stake, would risk it all for an affair with a young, nervous shop girl.
We never learn much about Therese. She has a boyfriend, Richard (Jake Lacy), who would like to marry her, but Carol clearly doesn’t care about him that much. She is awkward, and doesn’t appear all that interested in things around her. She like photography. That’s about it.
As Carol’s divorce gets ugly, she decides to leave town for a while. The pair go on a road trip in Carol’s huge car, staying in grimy hotels and eating in greasy dinners. It’s during this trip that the two women are intimate for the first time. Oddly though, there are a couple of times when Haynes puts Therese near other lesbian characters and she clearly flinches. Are we to believe she is strictly attracted to Carol? Perhaps. It’s just a bit strange.
The main reason to check out Carol is the performance of Cate Blanchett. She is perfectly coiffured and made up, but all of that can’t hide her fragility. She looks like she could break at any moment. It soon becomes clear that her constant cigarette flicking, and cocktail in hand, is part of the mask Carol has created for herself. As her estranged husband admits, Carol is “always the most beautiful woman in the room.”
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Anchor Bay’s 1080p transfer looks stunning. As mentioned in the review, cinematographer Edward Lachman’s cinematographer looks beautiful throughout. Details are stunning in each frame, catching the fabrics of the clothing, Background imagery is detailed shows amazing depth throughout. Blacks are rich, deep and consuming. Flesh tones are consistent, while facial details are top notch. This transfer leaves no major complaints.
Carol‘s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack is well designed for the material. Music is rich and detailed, spaced nicely in the front, and often seeping to the surrounds. Ambient effects are handled nicely, never interfering with the clean, clear dialogue, which has been given center placement. There are no audio anomalies to speak of.
English SDH, and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Behind the Scenes Gallery (HD) A collection of interviews that cover issues around the film’s performances and production. Included are Cate Blanchett (4:02); Rooney Mara (4:39); Todd Haynes, Director (4:45); Phyllis Nagy, Screenplay (4:58); Edward Lachman, Cinematography (4:56); Sandy Powell, Costume Design (3:42); Judy Becker, Production Design (4:03). and Carter Burwell, Composer (4:53).
- Q&A Highlights with Filmmakers & Cast (HD, 29:25): Interview clips from different occasions, including a Q&A with Rooney Mara and Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy from Los Angeles, October 22, 2015; a Q&A with Cate Blanchett, Roomy Mara & Director Todd Haynes from New York, October 10, 2015; a SAG Q&A with Cast and Director from Los Angeles, November 13, 2015; and a Q&A with Filmmakers from New York, October 17, 2015.
- UV Digital Copy.