“THE BEAUTY OF Carol isn’t in the composition of the shots, nor in the performances of stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. It’s in the simplicity of its voice. The movie finds love in the quietest moments: the slightest touch of hands, the laugh that lasts a beat longer than it should. And capturing those fleeting images is nothing if not its director’s life’s work.
Todd Haynes, who is currently riding a wave of early Oscar buzz with Carol, out today, has been stacking critical acclaim for nearly 30 years, dating back to his 1987 Barbie-doll-starring cult classic Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (which earned him a copyright infringement lawsuit ). In the ’90s, he made horror/sci-fi/love story Poison and the glam-rock movie Velvet Goldmine, as well as AIDS allegory Safe, which helped turn Julianne Moore into a star. (She returned the favor by starring in Haynes’ 2002 movie Far from Heaven, which got five Oscar nominations.)
The mark of Haynes’s movies is that they do what films are supposed to do: express complex thoughts with images, not words.
And so it is with Carol, a story of two women falling in love in 1950s New York City. Out now in select cities and spreading wider this month, it follows two women—Therese (Rooney Mara) and Carol (Blanchett)—who are inexorably drawn to each other when they don’t even know how to talk about it.
“Therese is struggling for even the syntax of what she was experiencing,” Haynes says. “That’s what you feel when you first fall in love—you feel like you’re inventing it yourself.” To show that, the director had to find a way to telegraph what his main characters were feeling when they couldn’t say it.
Here are a few other paths Haynes has forged over his long and fascinating career…”