“Well, I barely even know what to order for lunch.”
There’s only one Carol you need this Christmas. Carol is a sweetly tuned duet between a Hollywood heavyweight and a blossoming flower, delicately orchestrated by the marvellous Todd Haynes. Carol’s (Blanchett) clout out-muscles the youthful frame of Therese (Mara) before dropping her fur-coated-veil, which she never truly replaces.
The film’s black, red and yellows sharply contrast against the white winter background, each indicating a different influence. Sparkling in the snow, the 1950’s fashion is powerful in itself and more so when Carol’s deep red coat pierces the sea of brown, grey and beige. Therese’s subversion is much more subtle and personal; it is a subversion less of standing out and more of standing true. Her hip yellow, black and white hat is a drop of intelligence in the cookie-cutter wardrobe of the supporting cast, yet like Carol’s fur veil, this is dropped for a different presence. Red indicates assurance and dominance and whilst one protagonist has it at the start, the red flows in and out like waves.
Carol’s minimalist dialogue plays into this changeable dominance; the camera lingers on a touch, word or lack of word, building thriller-like tension. Convulsions on-screen at the slight embrace of a shoulder feel as powerful as a hammer to the head, and leave a more lasting impact.
The symbolic nature of each movement shows the anguish behind the set of characters. All are stuck in time and a situation they were wholly unprepared for. Be it with a lie told, and a swing door separation or a misplaced question showing a character lost in a once familiar world, Phyllis Nagy’s screenplay leaves as much off the screen as on.
Todd Haynes’ Christmas Carol is a cracker. Whilst Mara’s impressionable youth may flicker reminiscently of Deschanel in Elf, this is a much different approach to the festive-set feature. Maturity, honesty and deception, Carol is a sensory Thelma and Louise, that plays out like any well-made pursuit picture. A pair of truly exceptional lead performances combine with the tender source material and one of the finest directing performances of the year to form a real cinematic gem.
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