Carol is a 2015 British-American romantic drama film directed by Todd Haynes, with 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, married woman.
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 six weeks. 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 will be released in the United Kingdom on November 27, 2015.
In the early 1950s, Therese Belivet, a temporary shopgirl, is working in the toy department of a department store in Manhattan during the Christmas season. She is approached by an older woman, Carol Aird, who purchases a model train set for her daughter as a gift on Therese’s recommendation. 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, where she invites her to her home for the holiday, and they strike up a friendship. Therese, who is an aspiring photographer, takes several pictures of Carol from a distance as she buys a Christmas tree. Harge is suspicious of his wife’s relationship with Therese following a brief tryst that she had years earlier with her best friend Abby. He leaves on a business trip to Florida and takes Rindy with him.
Carol and Therese’s friendship continues to grow, which invokes the ire of Therese’s boyfriend, Richard. With the fact that she does not love him, along with his admittance to sleeping with two other women during their relationship, they break up, with Richard stating that Carol will be rid of her soon. Carol and Therese decide to take a road trip together to Chicago to escape the stress of the former’s divorce. Carol gives Therese a new camera and film as a gift. 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. Carol abruptly leaves to return to New York to fight for her daughter. 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.
With the evidence against her too incriminating, Carol tearfully allows Harge to take full custody of Rindy, though begs him for visitation periods, threatening to settle the matter in court if he refuses. Over the next few months, Therese, with the help of her writer friend Dannie, gets a job at The New York Times as a photographer, admiring the photos she took of Carol during their time together. Therese and Carol reconnect at the Ritz-Carlton, the latter saying that she’s now working at a furniture store and has been allowed to visit Rindy for twice a month. With the divorce matter settled and done, Carol invites Therese to live with her in her apartment, but Therese refuses, still hurt by Carol’s previous rejection.
Therese accepts an invitation to a party with Richard later that same night, where she finds that she cannot socially connect with anyone there. Therese leaves and approaches Carol at a restaurant, the two of them smiling warmly upon seeing each other as the film ends.