Carol doesn’t release until January 14 of next year. I will publish a proper review closer to that date. Until then, here are some quick thoughts.
The lingering, lustful touch of a love; and the hasty, unaffectionate one from another person. The second one doesn’t matter. It doesn’t carry a past or a future. It will be forgotten soon, replaced with memories of a love. The first, however, could speak a thousand words. Oh, only if it could. It’d say a thousand internalised feelings and desires. It’s yearning. It’s an apology. It’s grasping to a moment, begging to relive it, for it to have a different ending. The right ending. The one that would ensure this moment would never have to really end.
Todd Haynes and Phyllis Nagy’s Carol is an exercise in control. For the first half, it’s wondrous and joyful, the honeymoon period of falling in love, before the dark cloud of reality encroaching on the horizon blows in. That dark cloud, the promise of it, gives a sense of urgency. The control is akin to that of that terrifying, exhilarating moment of one realising that they’re in love, but have to hide it and fight against their crushing desire for that person. It’s unbearable, but you succeed, planning your movements to not show it, but at the same time hoping you do. Until, of course, you can’t take it anymore. Because desire has built up, unbeknownst to you, and races forth in a torrent. It’s everything you could have imagined and possibly more. Haynes’s film is a slow build to these moments of emotional bank-breaking. It’s emotional turns catch you completely off-guard, a silent movement towards that overwhelming moment of no return. Haynes and Nagy resist the temptation to turn these moments into grand, romantic gestures. This is a romance that entirely occurs behind closed doors, after all. No moment feels premature beyond its realism. There’s an imaginary barrier between Therese and Carol, until, suddenly there isn’t anymore. It happens in a single moment.
Because, at the end, Carol is about a moment. It’s the moment you never forget, one that started out typical and banal, but became anything but when you looked into the eyes of a certain person and saw everything you thought about yourself and them change in a moment, uncontrollably shattered and reconstructed with a different feeling – love. Time stands still. All that remains is that feeling, that unforgettable feeling of being both scared and happy beyond belief. You’ll go on, but that moment of terror and joy will never fade. After all, some people change your life forever.