Leeds International Film Festival’s closing screening, Carol, starring the spellbinding duo Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, received over eight hundred spectators in the majestic Town Hall. Stephen Woolley, the producer of Carol, came to introduce the film and speak about its genesis; how it took eleven years to develop due to various complications such as buying the rights to Patricia Highsmith’s novel, The Price of Salt, on which the film is based. Shockingly, Woolley also discussed the difficulties of funding Carol with two female protagonists. Major production companies repeatedly questioned, ‘but who’s the male lead?’ It is a sad truth the Hollywood side of the film industry is sceptical that two prestigious female actresses are going to provide enough box office attention. However, Film4 came to Carol’s rescue, along with two other independent film production companies to give it the funding it so deserved.
Set in the winter of 1952 in New York, Carol is a story of love between two women, a wealthy mother and wife, Carol (Cate Blanchett) and a younger shop assistant, Therese (Rooney Mara). Director Todd Haynes, whom Woolley proclaims the ‘maestro’ of Carol, beautifully illustrates a tentative love that unfolds between the two women. Their instant attraction is palpable, as both actresses are experts in expressing emotion through their eyes alone. Both Carol and Therese follow this passion blindly without fully comprehending what it is they are experiencing. Carol, placed in a more dominant role, pursues Therese with pure fascination whilst enduring a difficult divorce and rebelling against social judgment and condemnation.
Blanchett powerfully depicts an autonomous woman who follows her passionate instincts, and invites Therese on a road trip with her. Rooney, who won Best Actress for the film at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, conveys a woman unsure of herself, timid and inward, who worries she says ‘yes to everything’ without fully knowing what she wants. However, her desire for Carol culminates on the trip, and the drama rscalates from there.
There is an uncanny resemblance between Carol’s young daughter and Rooney Mara’s innocent, child-like face, which brings forward the concept of a caring, maternal love Carol feels for Therese. The moment she sees a picture of Therese as a young girl is beautiful; she is moved to tears, as she realises she is being torn away from her daughter.
Following on from her mesmerising performance in Blue Jasmine, Blanchett once again magnificently portrays a woman on the edge, always with a cigarette and a strong drink in trembling hands. The striking cinematography of Blanchett and Rooney’s pensive faces, often through reflections, leaves the audience with a sense of empowerment, as the two women take control of their lives. Therese flourishes into a young woman more certain of her future after her time apart from Carol, as she no longer floats along in the decisions of others. Her final decision, the director so subtly conveys, marks a shift from youth to maturity, we can all strive to achieve. Carol expresses a genderless love, a state of attraction between two human beings that can evolve in the most unlikely of places.