Carol says so much with pictures both beautiful and haunting.
Carol, Todd Haynes' period piece nominated for six Oscars, could stand as a master class in smart screenwriting and visual storytelling. Starting with Phyllis Nagy's sly adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel The Price of Salt, the movie always shows more than it tells, giving the audience credit for being intelligent enough to read between the lines of what's being said. Cate Blanchett plays the title character who starts a dangerous relationship with Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), a shy shop girl. The filmmakers ensure that their interactions are distinguished by glances, gestures and body language rather than any on-the-nose dialogue. This works perfectly for the time as forbidden forms of love were not talked about then, and those entering into such a world had to keep things secret. Thus, the film brilliantly presents Carol and Therese stepping very carefully into their affair, and Haynes uses all of the tools in his arsenal to complement Nagy's deft writing.
The exquisite cinematography, detailed period décor, memorable costumes, and wistful score not only enhance the love story, but at times help fuel the film's exquisite tension as well. Dark shadows fill scenes with dread, drab rooms hobble Carol and Therese's road trip journey of self discovery, and dangerous men lurk in the corners of many of the film's compositions. Most significantly, Haynes dots his drama with the color red, as it is a metaphor for the two women's passions trying to rise above the rejection of a close-minded society. If love is a game, then Carol plays like a chess match with its two main characters carefully negotiating their every move.