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Review: Carol is the Brokeback Mountain of this generation

Review: Carol is the Brokeback Mountain of this generation

Cate Blanchett stars in Carol

Carol is not perfect, but like all of the best relationships – they never are.

Starring Cate Blanchett as the title character – a charismatic New York City socialite stuck in a loveless marriage divorcing her husband because she prefers the company of women. She meets Therese (Rooney Mara), a younger bohemian shop girl and part-time photographer working in the toy department.

As soon as they meet, the two have instant chemistry that flickers all over the screen. Sparks give way to passion, and a romance forms.

But Carol’s villainous husband, Kyle Chandler’s Harge, is obsessed with her. If he can’t have her as his prize, no one can. Even if it means taking custody of their child so their daughter is not influenced by his ex-wife’s ‘madness’.

I couldn’t help compare the film to Brokeback Mountain.


Both are powerful movies about the rise and fall of a passionate same-sex relationship in a time when it was not only frowned upon, it was dangerous to be gay. Both are beautiful, drawn out romances that star two actors at their best. Both are stunning.

The difference is that where there is anger in Brokeback, it seethes in Carol. Instead of a rural landscape, it’s urbane. The guitar score is replaced by pianos and rough, brutal sex is replaced by something more realistic – far more softer, sweeter and sensual.

Each scene is luxuriously framed, filtered so each shot feels like Instagram was invented in 1952. It isn’t saccharine though, the film has a sorrow in its sweetness.

Phyllis Nagy’s screenplay is almost lyrical, working to each of the actor’s strengths. But the film’s direction by I’m Not There’s Todd Haynes captures the stolen moments of two people of the same gender who cannot be together but find a way. The moments when you see forbidden glances, subtle touches, are unmissable.

But it’s not perfect. It moves so slowly at points that you’re sometimes longing for it to pick up the pace. And also, if we were to believe Cate Blanchett as a woman who has had a series of girlfriends – she could have done with shorter nails. If you know what I mean.

LGBTI cinema has had some serious misses lately, with both Stonewall and The Imitation Game heavily criticized for major missteps. But what both of those films forgot was that stories about star-crossed lovers, tales of two people that need to be together but can’t, are timeless.

And that’s what makes this film special, it feels like you could return to this film again and again. You wouldn’t want to quit on this.

Carol is out worldwide on 27 November.