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Directed by Todd Haynes

USA, 2015

HOME, 5 December 2015


We have had several excellent film adaptations of Patricia Highsmith’s novels, most recently The Two Faces of January. This is another to add to their number.

Not Highsmith’s best novel (my pick would be The Tremor of Forgery) but certainly her most personal, Carol recounts the story of a lesbian relationship. Terry (Rooney Mara) is a fledgling artist, a photographer, who meets Carol (Cate Blanchett), an elegant woman in the prime of her life, while working in a department store over the Christmas holidays. Their choice of a train set as a present for Carol’s young daughter is a coming together.

You feel for Carol, first of all. She is a seductress, yes, but there is an intensity about her, a desperation, an unwillingness (for she is running out of time) to compromise. Her bravery is evident, too, as in the way she will risk rejection to move the affair forward. Clarity is important to her. And when your empathy shifts to Terry, you realise that she has the same integrity, albeit in a quieter key. Both women are intent on forging (an important notion for Highsmith, who often plays on and conflates its twin senses: to make and to fake. To create fiction, or any form of art, is to forge) an existence and an identity. They find themselves and find each other. Carol is a love story then, and a quite beautiful film.

As an aside: an interesting moment occurs towards the end of the film, when a character who in appearance is not unlike Patricia Highsmith herself, makes a cameo (she is the young woman who speaks to Terry at a party) and is described by one of Terry’s colleagues as a ‘Greenwich Village phoney’, which is to say a fake, a forgery, a forger. Just like Tom Ripley.