File:Carol (film) POSTER.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTodd Haynes
Screenplay byPhyllis Nagy
Produced by
CinematographyEdward Lachman
Edited byAffonso Gonçalves
Music byCarter Burwell
Distributed by
Release dates
  • May 17, 2015 (2015-05-17) (Cannes)
  • November 20, 2015 (2015-11-20) (United States)
  • November 27, 2015 (2015-11-27) (United Kingdom)
Running time
118 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Budget$11.8 million[1]
Box office$4.2 million[2]

Carol is a 2015 British-American romantic drama film directed by Todd Haynes, from a screenplay by Phyllis Nagy based on the novel The Price of Salt (also known as Carol) by Patricia Highsmith. The film stars Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, and Kyle Chandler. Set in 1952 in New York City, the film tells the story of a young aspiring photographer and her relationship with an older woman going through a difficult divorce.

Carol was in development for over 11 years by British producers of Number 9 Films and Film4 Productions, and is co-produced by New York-based Killer Films. Principal photography began in March 2014, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and lasted 34 days. The film was shot on Super 16 mm. Carol was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, where Mara tied for the Best Actress award. The film has received critical acclaim. It opened in limited release on November 20, 2015 in the United States, and was released in the United Kingdom on November 27, 2015.


In the early 1950s, Therese Belivet, a temporary shopgirl and aspiring photographer, is working in the toy department of a department store in Manhattan during the Christmas season. She is approached by a glamorous older woman, Carol Aird, who purchases a model train set for her daughter as a gift on Therese's recommendation. There's an immediate attraction between them. Carol accidentally leaves her gloves on the counter, and Therese mails them to her home in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, Carol is going through a difficult divorce with her neglectful husband, Harge, and is struggling to maintain custody of their young daughter, Rindy. Out of loneliness and gratitude for Therese's kind act of returning her gloves, Carol invites her to lunch. Both are intrigued, and careful. Carol invites Therese to her home for the holiday, and they strike up a friendship. Therese takes several pictures of Carol from a distance as she buys a Christmas tree. Harge is suspicious of his wife's relationship with Therese due to a brief tryst that she had years earlier with her best friend Abby, and shows up suddenly. Therese is witness to their fighting and the confirmation of this aspect of Carol's sexuality. Harge leaves on a business trip to Florida and takes Rindy with him, leaving Carol alone for Christmas. Carol abruptly drives Therese back to the train to go home.

Carol contacts Therese again to apologize. Under the careful premise of friendship, Carol and Therese's relationship continues to grow. Carol gives Therese a new camera and film as a gift. Carol learns that Harge is suing for full custody based on a "morality clause" that threatens to expose Carol's attraction to women. Carol decides to take a road trip to Chicago to escape the stress of her divorce, and invites Therese. Therese's boyfriend, Richard, feels threatened by Carol and the trip, and he and Therese break up. Richard states that Carol will be rid of her soon. On New Year's Eve, Carol and Therese finally acknowledge their strong romantic feelings for each other, and they make love for the first time in their motel room. The next morning they discover that a private investigator, named Tommy, whom they met on their trip when he masqueraded as a salesman, was hired by Harge to follow them and record evidence of their affair. The audio tapes were already sent to Harge, to be used against Carol in their custody hearings over Rindy. Carol abruptly leaves to return to New York to fight for her daughter. She sends Abby to drive Therese across the country back home. Back in New York, Therese tries contacting Carol by phone, but Carol hangs up, realizing that she cannot continue her relationship with Therese if she wants any chance to see her daughter again. Therese is heartbroken, and pursues her career as a photographer by getting a job at The New York Times partly due to the photos she took of Carol during their time together.

Heartbroken herself, unable to pretend she's someone she's not, and with the evidence against her too incriminating, Carol tells Harge to take full custody of Rindy, though she insists on visitation periods, threatening to settle the matter in court if he refuses. She writes to Therese and asks to see her. Therese and Carol reconnect at the Ritz-Carlton. Carol tells her that she's now working at a furniture store and has been allowed to visit Rindy twice a month. Carol invites Therese to live with her in her apartment, but Therese refuses, still hurt by Carol's previous rejection and control over their relationship. Carol tells Therese she loves her. An interruption ends their meeting.

Therese accepts an invitation to a party later that same night, where she finds that she cannot socially connect with anyone there. Therese leaves to find Carol at a restaurant, and the two make eye contact across a crowded room that expresses the love they feel, a bold and secret act in a repressive society.




Carol is based on Patricia Highsmith's 1952 semi-autobiographical novel The Price of Salt, originally published under the pseudonym Claire Morgan, and republished as Carol in 1990, under Highsmith's own name.[3][4] The film was in development for over 11 years by Film4 Productions and Number 9 Films.[5] Phyllis Nagy, who was a friend of Highsmith, wrote the first draft of the script in 1996.[6][7] Highsmith had suggested to Nagy she adapt one of her novels.[8] According to Nagy, Highsmith was not confident that the novel could be made into a "satisfying" film because of its "intense, subjective point of view".[9] Nagy decided to adapt the script to ensure its fidelity to the source material, remarking, "I felt a strange responsibility to take it, and to make sure that it wasn’t screwed up in some fundamental way, because she so disliked many of the screen adaptations of her work."[10] British producer Elizabeth Karlsen of Number 9 Films came across Nagy's screenplay in 2004. Nagy had spent 14 years trying to get the film made prior to Karlsen convincing Highsmith's estate to sign over the copyright to her in 2011.[4][6]

I was really surprised by how bizarrely experimental it was for a Highsmith novel, and how stream-of-consciousness point of view it was. Internal. My first thought was "How do you do that?" How do you do this really, without making it a terribly experimental film with lots of voice over, which I made an executive decision very early on not to have any; except for one moment in the film.

−Phyllis Nagy[11]

One of the challenges of adapting the novel was translating the subjective and limited third-person viewpoint whereby Carol is largely seen through Therese's fanatical prism.[12] Nagy was initially apprehensive of the narrative structure, considering "there's no character of Carol. She's a ghost appropriately, as she should be, in the novel", adding that she was "overwhelmed by the task of trying to come up with the visual equivalent for it structurally."[11] Nagy decided to split the point of view and shift perspectives from Therese to Carol, as "the point of view is always with the more vulnerable party". She made Therese a photographer instead of a set designer, allowing her "to be seen moving from objects to people", which Nagy likened to Highsmith as Therese is a "clear stand-in" for the author.[12] Nagy had freedom in "inventing a life for [Carol], for whom, basically, we knew the outline of what was going on." Once Nagy was able to dig into and understand the inner life of the character of Carol, her motivations given the circumstances, then the character became easy to write.[11]

Nagy realized she would "pass time in a different way" to the novel, eliminating elements that were unnecessary and slowed down the story in the screenplay. She had "great freedom" developing the screenplay in England while no studio or director was attached and it was just her and the producer. Over the years, five "proper" drafts of the screenplay materialized.[11] Nagy said that when Haynes came on board they had discussions about "what became the framing device"; Haynes was intrigued by films like Brief Encounter and suggested they try a framing device, which Nagy "then ran with in a certain way." "He was interested in the same things, tonally, that the script was interested in - which isn't always the case", she noted. "We were able to keep that restraint going".[11]

At the BFI London Film Festival, Nagy said she titled the film Carol, not The Price of Salt, because Highsmith herself had changed the title to Carol when the novel was republished, and she also "liked the sort of strange, obsessive nature of calling it by someone's name." There were later other discussions with Haynes.[13] Haynes said that the film is called Carol because the novel "is locked into the subjectivity of the younger woman" and Carol is "really the object of desire in the story." "There’s an element of, something aloof about her...something unsettled about [her], that puts Therese and these new feelings...on edge throughout much of the film. That relationship of who’s the object and who’s the subject does shift in the story, but it made sense ultimately that that would be the name for the film.”[14] On the universality of the story, Haynes said that the "real determining question is not whether society will accept [Therese's] feelings or not; it’s, will this person return her love or not? ... that is what transcends the class of love, or the period in which it’s occurring".[15]


In May 2012, it was announced that John Crowley would direct the film, starring Cate Blanchett and Mia Wasikowska as Carol and Therese, respectively. Number 9 Film's Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley would produce, along with Film4 Productions' Tessa Ross, executive producer who co-developed the project with Karlsen and Woolley.[16][17][18] In May 2013, Todd Haynes signed on to direct, replacing Crowley who withdrew due to scheduling conflicts. Haynes' collaborator Christine Vachon of Killer Films would co-produce the film.[19]

Todd Haynes first heard about the film in 2012 from costume designer Sandy Powell, who informed Haynes that Blanchett was attached and Karlsen was producing. Blanchett, who is an executive producer on the film, had been attached to the project for "a really long time".[20][21] Haynes learned they were looking for a director in 2013, when Karlsen asked his collaborator Christine Vachon if he would be interested in the project. Haynes regarded the story, its historical and social context, and collaborating again with Blanchett as motivating factors for his involvement.[22][23][24] In August 2013, it was reported that Rooney Mara had replaced Wasikowska, who had dropped out due to scheduling conflicts.[25][26] Mara said she was offered the role of Therese after completing the 2011 film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; although she loved the script and wanted to work with Blanchett, she did not sign on due to feeling weary from the Dragon Tattoo experience. By the time Haynes came on board she was "in a much different head space" and signing on to the project was "a no brainer at that point."[26][27]

In January 2014, Carter Burwell was hired to compose the music for the film.[28] Sarah Paulson was cast as Abby, a close friend of Carol, and Kyle Chandler was cast as Harge, Carol's husband.[29][30] The following month, Cory Michael Smith was cast as Tommy, a charming traveling salesman, and Jake Lacy joined the cast as Richard, Therese's boyfriend.[31][32] In April 2014, John Magaro was cast as Dannie, a writer who works at The New York Times.[33] Carrie Brownstein then joined the cast, playing the role of Genevieve Cantrell, a woman who has an encounter with Therese.[34] Edward Lachman served as the director of photography.[35]

Haynes collaborated with Nagy on fine-tuning the screenplay, and with Blanchett on a dramaturgical level.[6][36][37] In rehearsal, Haynes, Blanchett and Mara realized certain lines that either character did not need to say should be cut, which Haynes deemed the "stylistic practice that we all took throughout the creative departments. I feel there was an understanding with them that words and dialogue were never carrying the weight of the story."[15]


In December 2013, it was announced that Carol would be filmed in Cincinnati, Ohio, and production offices would open in early January 2014, with filming expected from mid-March through May.[38] Principal photography began on March 12, 2014, at Eden Park in Cincinnati.[35][39] Various locations around Cincinnati, Ohio were used during filming, including Downtown Cincinnati, Hyde Park, Over-the-Rhine, Wyoming, Cheviot, and Hamilton, as well as Alexandria, Kentucky.[40][41][42][43] The film was shot in 34 days.[44] Filming was completed on April 25, 2014.[40] Edward Lachman shot the film on Super 16 mm.[45]


On December 15, 2014, Haynes confirmed deliverables were completed.[46] In early 2015, Brownstein told Paste Magazine that most of her scenes were cut due to the film's length.[47]


Main article: Carol: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

The soundtrack includes the original score by Carter Burwell and additional music performed by The Clovers, Billie Holiday, Georgia Gibbs, Les Paul and Mary Ford, and Jo Stafford. Songs not featured on the soundtrack include "Willow Weep for Me" performed by Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks Orchestra, "A Garden in the Rain" performed by The Four Aces, "Perdido" performed by Woody Herman, "That's the Chance You Take" by Eddie Fisher, "Slow Poke" by Pee Wee King, and "Why Don't You Believe Me" performed by Patti Page.[48]

The soundtrack for the film was released in both digital download and physical formats on November 20, 2015, by Varèse Sarabande.[49]


Rooney Mara, Todd Haynes and Cate Blanchett promoting the film at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

In May 2013, The Weinstein Company acquired United States distribution rights to the film.[50] The first official image from Carol, released by Film4, appeared in the London Evening Standard in May 2014.[5] Despite deliverables being completed in late 2014, the producers decided to withhold the film until 2015 in order to benefit from a film festival launch.[46] A second image from the film was released in January 2015.[51] The first poster for the film was released in September 2015.[52]

The film was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.[53][54] It made its North American debut at the 42nd Telluride Film Festival, and screened at the 53rd New York Film Festival.[55][56] The film premiered in the UK as the BFI London Film Festival’s Gala event on October 14, 2015.[57] It opened in limited release in the United States on November 20, 2015.[58] Carol will be given a platform release in the US. It continued playing in four NY and LA theaters until December 11, when it expanded to a few more markets and 15 to 20 theaters. On Christmas day, it will expand to the top 50 film markets, playing about 150 theaters, and expand further after Christmas and New Year’s Day. At a point between January 8 and 15, the film will be on anywhere from 500 to 700 locations.[59][60] The film was released in the United Kingdom on November 27, 2015.[61]


Critical reception

Carol received a rapturous response, including a standing ovation, at its Cannes Film Festival international press screening and premiere. Critics particularly lauded Haynes' direction, Blanchett and Mara's performances, the cinematography, costumes and score, and deemed it a strong contender for a Cannes award.[62] On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 94% approval rating based on reviews from 124 critics, with an average rating of 8.7 out of 10. The site's critical consensus states: "Shaped by Todd Haynes' deft direction and powered by a strong cast led by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, Carol lives up to its groundbreaking source material."[63] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 95/100 based on 33 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[64]

Box office

As of December 16, 2015, Carol has grossed $1.3 million in North America and $3 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $4.3 million.[2] In the United States, the film began its limited run on November 20 at four theaters − The Paris Theater and Angelika Theater in New York City and the ArcLight Hollywood and Landmark Theater in Los Angeles − and was projected to earn around $50,000 per theater.[65] The film grossed $253,510 in its opening weekend at the four locations, the best opening of Haynes' films. Its per theater average of $63,378 was the third biggest opening of 2015.[59][66] In its second weekend, the film grossed $203,076, with a "robust" per location average of $50,769, the best of the week, bringing its nine-day cumulative from the four theaters to $588,355.[67] In its third weekend at the four locations, Carol earned $147,241, averaging an "impressive" $36,810, the highest for the third week in a row.[68] The film expanded from four to 16 theaters in its fourth week, and it was projected to average an estimated $10,000 over the weekend.[69] In its fourth weekend, it grossed $338,624, averaging $21,105, and bringing its United States cumulative to $1.2 million.[70] In the United Kingdom, Carol earned $724,000 in its three day opening weekend from 206 screens.[71]


Main article: List of accolades received by Carol (film)

Carol has received dozens of industry and critics awards. The film was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, where It won the Queer Palm and Mara tied for the Best Actress award with Emmanuelle Bercot.[72][73] The American Film Institute selected Carol as one of the Top Ten Films of the year.[74] The film garnered five Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Actress for Blanchett and Mara, Best Director for Haynes and Best Original Score for Carter Burwell.[75] It received five Independent Spirit Award nominations, including Best Feature, Best Director, Best Screenplay for Phyllis Nagy, Best Female Lead for Blanchett and Mara, and Best Cinematography for Edward Lachman.[76] Blanchett and Mara received Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role and Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role, respectively.[77] Carol has been included in many critics' Top Ten Films of 2015 lists.[78] The New York Film Critics Circle awarded the film Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography.[79] The film won Best Music from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and was runner-up for Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Production Design.[80] The Frankfurt Book Fair named Carol the Best International Literary Adaptation.[81] Film Comment magazine ranked Carol as the best film of 2015 based on its year-end poll of over 100 film critics.[82]

Top ten lists

Carol was named one of the best films of 2015 by numerous critics and publications and was ranked second on Metacritic and thirty-seven on Rotten Tomatoes's best scored film of 2015.[83][84][85]

See also


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