A closer look at… Carol

© StudioCanal, 2015.
© StudioCanal, 2015.

Carol is rated 15 for infrequent strong sex.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop – A sweeping and beautifully designed 1950s love story

Therese Belevit (Rooney Mara), a wide-eyed New York shopgirl, is captivated by her first glimpse of a glamorous older customer in a fur coat. When Carol (Cate Blanchett) leaves her gloves behind in the store, Therese returns them, and the two women begin spending time together. Though neither of them quite has the words to convey it, they are drawn together by a powerful attraction.

Carol is divorcing her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler), but he is still possessive of her. When he finds out about Therese, he threatens Carol with legal action that would block her from seeing their young daughter.

Our Take

It’s hard to see a film clearly when you’ve heard a flood of rave reviews beforehand, and I think this was a slight issue for me when watching Carol. Critics have left no superlative unturned, and if I wasn’t quite as swept up in the story as I expected to be, perhaps it’s because my expectations were so loaded. I’d  have to see it again in a year or so to really know what I think, but on first viewing, something about the script didn’t quite sit with me – in particular the characterisation of Therese’s clueless boyfriend Richard (Jake Lacy). I’ve never been keen on this trope: you don’t have to make characters’ erstwhile partners into two-dimensional villains to convince us that they belong together.

That said, there’s absolutely no denying that Carol is a beautiful piece of filmmaking. Anybody who misses Mad Men will revel in the gorgeous production designs and the costumes, which communicate so much about the characters and their world.  Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are captivating, and the film’s best moments feature them in subtle, wordless communication. My favourite scene is pictured below: at breakfast with a garrulous stranger, Carol and Therese are so caught up in each other and their shared secret that they can barely spare any attention for him.

 © StudioCanal, 2015.

© StudioCanal, 2015.

I think what [Director Todd Haynes] was interested in bringing out was the sensation of being in love profoundly for the first time. It feels as if you’re inventing the wheel. – Cate Blanchett

Dig Deeper

  • Did you enjoy the film, and why or why not? What were you expectations going in, and did it meet them?
  • What did you think of the film’s costumes and production design? How did the clothes worn by Carol and Therese, in particular, help to tell the story? How important are these elements of a film for you?
  • How did you react to the characters of Carol and Therese? How might you describe each of them in five words? What do you think attracts them to each other?
  • How did you feel about the film’s portrayal of Harge and of Therese’s boyfriend Richard? How do these men treat their partners, and what assumptions do they make about them?
  • What emotions did Carol evoke in you, and why? What effect does it have that we’re watching characters who can’t fully express themselves? How do the characters express and communicate their emotions without words?

I’m charting the correlation between what the characters say and what they really feel. – Dannie (John Magaro)

  • Would you describe Carol as a ‘political’ film, and why or why not? Is there anything striking or unusual about the way it portrays a lesbian relationship? What might be some of the common tropes or stereotypes surrounding gay people in Hollywood films?

I don’t mean ‘people like that’. I just mean two people who fall in love with each other out of the blue. – Therese

  • How does Therese ‘come of age’ over the course of the story? She describes herself as someone who ‘always says yes’ – do you think she grows beyond this? What changes and developments do we see in Carol?
  • Do you think that Carol made the right choice regarding her daughter? What might it mean to ‘live against our own grain’, and what damage could this do? Is the idea of ‘being true to ourselves’ a helpful one, and how can we know what this looks like?

What use am I to her if I’m living against my own grain? – Carol

© StudioCanal, 2015.
© StudioCanal, 2015.


Read More

How Patricia Highsmith’s Carol became a film

‘Instantly, I love her’: the affairs that inspired Carol

Cate Blanchett: ‘I used to be very socially awkward’

Cate Blanchett on Why ‘Carol’ Is Not Your Average Love Story

The irresistible design details of the film Carol

Rooney Mara Explains Why ‘Carol’ is Not a Political Film

Published by

Sophie Lister

Damaris resources bring films to new audiences, start conversations, and enrich lives. Find out more at www.damarismedia.com Here at the Damaris Film Blog, we publish regular discussion guides to help you make the most of the latest cinema releases.