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Carol is a special rarity.

Todd Haynes is one of the greatest living American directors.

“Carol” caught my attention due to two factors. It’s a Patricia Highsmith adaptation and Todd Haynes directed it. Haynes is one of the few directors whose work I’d follow into the Gates of Hell. While I fall out of his target audience, his films remain a hodgepodge that I find more and more engrossing with each new release. What does that say for a film about two women finding love in a complicated manner during the 1950s?

Cate Blanchett is a perfectly elusive figure that works as a Gilda or a Sophie or whatever the hell Cara Eyebrows was playing in Paper Towns. Rooney Mara knows who she is, but she doesn’t get the chance to act upon it. Cate Blanchett has acted upon it in the past and been shutdown for embracing that aspect of her life. Now, Blanchett is trying to escape the bondage of marriage while still custody of her child. Rooney Mara’s concerns for being taken seriously as a photographer seem quaint in comparison.

But, Mara and Blanchett find solace in each other. They can make love, talk, make love and then discuss a possible future together. Cate Blanchett can’t ever have a future in this sense, as she’s too invested in the straight world. She’s bought into the conventions and understands the ruses she has to play. Blanchett won’t turn sour like Sarah Paulson and resent the things she lost. But, what about Rooney Mara?

Rooney Mara is this film’s secret weapon, as the audience is supposed to follow her as a means of breaking into this world. But, Mara never gets a sense of what the world could be. All throughout the finale, Mara is lost in a way that we haven’t seen onscreen since Diane Keaton tried to understand the Corleone Family dynamic. Those final moments when Mara catches a glimpse of Blanchett seemingly returning to the straight world, your heart breaks for her. She’s just a kid who doesn’t get the games you play to save face and that status quo. In a way, I guess you could call it Lesbian Chinatown.

While that last quip might sound humorous, I don’t know anyone to convey the crushing reality that Cate Blanchett is forever lost in this world. Rooney Mara is rejected, but she has hope for what might come into the future. Cate Blanchett returns to the life that she seemingly hates, but she knows. The comfort of the status quo has never felt as horrible as in those last glances of Carol. Truly haunting cinema.

RELEASE DATE: 11/20/2015

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