AFI FEST Review: Perfectly Constructed, ‘Carol’ is a Dazzling Work of Cinema


It’s not uncommon for movies hitting the festival circuit to have hyperbolic praise leveled upon them by the initial audiences to see them. The reason isn’t exactly a mystery: festival goers are inundated with a large number of movies in a short time span, and seeing something truly good in the midst of middling indie dramas and enigmatic art films feels almost revelatory. But the reaction to Todd HaynesCarol isn’t hyperbolic. This is a film that’s practically flawless on every single level. There’s not a superfluous frame within Carol, not a bad performance in this love story that’s both dreamlike and heartbreaking. This is truly one of the year’s best films.

Set in the winter of 1952, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) is working in a New York City department store. Therese is an aspiring photographer and is in a relationship with Richard (Jake Lacy), a young man who wishes to marry her. During the Christmas rush, Therese helps Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) pick out a gift for her young daughter. When Carol leaves behind her gloves, Therese takes the extra effort to mail them to Carol. As a sign of appreciation, Carol takes Therese out to lunch, which begins a friendship that will blossom into something more. But Carol is facing personal problems of her own. She’s in the process of divorcing her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler), though he is determined to keep the marriage going. But Harge feels emasculated by his soon-to-be ex-wife, knowing of her past affair with her close friend Abby (Sarah Paulson), and will seek legal means to obtain sole custody of their daughter. Through it all, Carol and Therese grow closer and closer, especially on their impromptu journey west for the holidays.

The all-encompassing look of Carol is a wonder in and of itself. Haynes frames every shot exquisitely, with each shot telling us just as much about the situations as the plot. The initial lunch between Carol and Therese features these weighted shots that convey an intimacy between the two characters even though they’re sitting across from one another. In a scene of Therese and Richard arguing, the actors and cameras move in perfect unison, and the setting provides a natural barrier between the characters emphasizing the growing distance in their relationship. Amazingly, this majestic framing happens in almost every scene in the film.

There’s no nostalgic sheen to the look of Carol either. Shot in a grainy 16mm film stock, cinematographer Edward Lachman gives the film a textured appearance, never looking like the past is being recreated. That grainy 16mm look is aided by the wonderful production design by Judy Becker, the set decoration by Lexi Jamieson Marsh and Heather Loeffler, and the costume design by Sandy Powell.

If not for the excellent script by Phyllis Nagy, adapting the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, Carol could be an exercise in hollow beauty. But it’s not. Not even close. Each character in Carol is fully formed, and the additional layers are revealed as the film briskly moves along from scene to scene. There’s not one moment within the film where the audience is left to ponder why a moment is included as each moment is important to the narrative and never lingers past the point of relevance. As happens with great movies, Carol is also funnier than expected with numerous moments of levity to cut the tension.

As expected, Cate Blanchett gives another stellar performances as the eponymous Carol. She speaks in a sultry tone and her eyes present the look of a woman with a past filled with pain. In what must be a herculean feat for any actress, Rooney Mara is just as good, if not better, than her co-star. Mara gives Therese the appropriate unease of a character yet to discover their true self. The two stellar actresses are wholly captivating together, and their romance doesn’t even kick in until the film is near its conclusion. All the sexual tension between the two is palpable from the film’s early frames, and accentuated with slight physical moments like the touch of a shoulder. In all truthfulness, the two leading women of Carol should each be competing for Best Actress honors at the Academy Awards, as neither is really a supporting player.

Carol is a drama of a whirlwind romance between two women in an era when that wasn’t socially acceptable, yet it never feels like it’s a film trying to inject today’s morality on its story. It’s not overstated on the aspects of the struggle for sexual identity, but simply focused on the characters of the story. It’s hard to find a film that is as brilliantly constructed from top to bottom as Carol this year or any year. Todd Haynes has crafted a genuine masterpiece of impeccable filmmaking, a film that marvels on every conceivable level. Christmas has come early for cinephiles as Carol is a treat for film lovers.

Shop Deadpool tees in our officially licensed Marvel store!

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Darkest Hour
Joe Wright’s ‘Darkest Hour’ Brings Forth Gary Oldman’s Finest Hours

In 1940, as Hitler’s Nazi forces spread their aggressive campaign of...

The Good Time Girls
Brutal Female Fronted Western Revenge Short ‘The Good Time Girls’ Optioned as a Feature

The Western genre has for too long been a sausage-fest, movies...

Martin McDonagh
Martin McDonagh Discusses the Fire Behind ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

These days, it’s easy to be angry. Look around you and...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Super Beat Sports Review
Drop the Beat, Don’t Drop the Ball – Super Beat Sports Review [Switch]

Harmonix delivers another game that’s as fun and catchy as that song...

Nioh: Complete Edition Review
Test Your Metal – Nioh: Complete Edition Review [PC]

Definitive proof that there is fun in challenge and frustration –...

Review – Bad Apple Wars (PSV)

Rinka is your typical high school girl. She goes through life,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Tick Tock, Tick Tock, the ‘Doomsday Clock’ is about to Strike!

Title: Doomsday Clock #1 Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Gary Frank Colorist:...

viz media
Viz Media Digital Manga Update for November

TLDR Viz Media announced its digital manga update for November will...

viz media
New Anime and Manga for the Holidays from Viz Media

Viz Media releases new anime and manga for the upcoming holidays....

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Are you Ready for WWE Survivor Series? Check Out Loot Crate First!

Updated from Thursday’s Original Post: One of the original “Big 4”...

Are You Worthy to Wield Thor’s Hammer (Tool Set)?

ThinkGeek’s 44 piece Thor’s hammer tool set is the perfect gift...

Legendary Dragon Decks Review
Dragons are the Coolest – Yu-Gi-Oh! Legendary Dragon Decks Review

Dragons are ingrained into every season of Yu-Gi-Oh, here’s your chance...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
AXS TV Closes NJPW’s ‘G1 Climax 27’ With Four Episodes From The Final Weekend Beginning Friday Oct. 13

Los Angeles, CA (Oct. 11, 2017) – “Rainmakers” and “High Fly...

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Rocky Romero has created an auction to raise money for UNIDOS por Puerto Rico Disaster Relief

I’m The costume was worn by Rocky during the final Roppongi...

Douglas Lima Defends his Bellator Welterweight Title Against Rory MacDonald at the Forum on 1/20

LOS ANGELES – One year removed from its previous event at...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Adult Continuity Issue #10 – Justice League XXX


Javier Fernandez
Future Comic Rock Stars – Javier Fernandez

It’s been an incredibly long time since I’ve written this column...

Comics on the Can – Double Dragon

Comics on the can Double Dragon Writer – Dwayne McDuffie Pencils...

Event News Event Reviews
go little tokyo
Five Reasons to Visit LA’s Little Tokyo For the Holidays

Go Little Tokyo is pleased to host Go Little Tokyo for the...

BlizzCon 2017
Another Cool Year at BlizzCon – BlizzCon 2017 Roundup

BlizzCon 2017 was packed full of Blizzard news that chilled fans...

LA Comic Con 2017
Stan Lee and Dwayne Johnson Rock the Main Stage at LA Comic Con 2017

LA Comic Con (formerly Comikaze) brings the star power with its...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming.

Gaming Uncensored Roundtable: December 2016

December’s roundtable discusses story in games with Chad, Josh, and Spencer....

Gaming Uncensored: Podcast #349

Jamie reflects on some of his time with the HTC Vive....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
MTV Unveils Performers for ‘TRL Live’ on October 3rd at 3 p.m. E.T.

NEW YORK, NY (September 26, 2017) – MTV today announced that...

Long Beach Punk Band ‘Spider’ Rocks ‘It’s Not Dead’ Festival

Spider is a heavy hitting punk band out of Long Beach,...

Lahna Turner’s ‘Limeade’ is a Hilariously Haunting Comedy Album

Many people are roll their eyes at the idea of musical...