All posts by Daniel Davis

Race: A Review

Stephen Hopkins’ Race, a French-German-Canadian Co-Production, is a somewhat standard biopic that tells the story of Jesse Owens (played by Stephan James), and his quest to become the world’s greatest track and field athlete. After being trained by Coach Larry Snyder (played by Jason Sudeikis), he finds himself on the world stage of the 1936 Olympics. In this context, Jesse is up against Adolph Hitler and his racist ideologies, which threaten to tear him apart. Due to this conflict, he has to decide whether or not he should actually go to the Olympics. While this is happening, we intersect with scenes of Avery Brundage, (played by Jeremy Irons) a well off American envoy, who is trying to negotiate a compromise with Hitler’s political party, the Third Reich, so as to avoid a boycott over Jesse Owen’s participation in the Olympics. Race may be a very simply told story, but its good performances and compelling story, make it even more enjoyable than expected.

Race’s title actually has two meanings. The first, obviously, refers to the Olympics and the running race Owens is involved in, and the second meaning, of course, has to do with Jesse Owens and the prejudice he receives on the field because of his race,and being an African American athlete. Stephan James’ plays Owens as a fiercely stubborn and persistent runner who wants to be the best. James’ performance is somewhat cautious, and while he seems to lack a huge amount of dramatic depth in the role, he is, nonetheless, very good. Comedian Jason Sudeikis, as Coach Larry Snyder, is a bit of the odd duck in the film. While he is basically very good in the role, it does feel like he’s trying too hard with a little too much brooding and seriousness, as if to remind the audience that he’s not playing his usual funny role with comic relief. When he delivers lines, like “no room on the team for us”, all I can think of to myself is here is a serious Sudeikis who wants to seen as a serious actor, playing a serious role, very seriously. The rest of the cast is pretty good as well, with Jeremy Irons as Avery Brundage, who spends most of his scenes talking a lot to Germans, and William Hurt, as a racist coach, being the standouts.

The direction by Stephen Hopkins is fine. There are some slow-motion scenes, such as when Coach Snyder is telling Jessie if he hears voices from outside the stadium, and Coach Snyder’s voice slows down, then the scenes switch almost automatically back and forth. Another example of this, whenever Jessie is running, the scenes will literally go silent just before the races are about to begin. The running scenes, in general, are quite exhilarating, and are the highlights of the film, even if they don’t take up much of the film’s screen time, and don’t appear until about half-way through the film.

I especially liked the musical score by Rachel Portman. While a lot of the music is very inspirational-sounding, I quite liked the dark and sinister music for the Nazis, however the music that plays when Jessie Owens walks onto the Olympic running field is oddly somewhat dark sounding as well, and then it builds to an epic rushing piece, eventually.

What’s unusually odd about Race, which I didn’t particularly care for, is just how weirdly edited it is, at least in the first half. Scenes sometimes cut from one to the other, and some of them feel oddly out of place. An example of this is when Jessie Owens and Coach Snyder are talking, and the film cuts to a shot of Avery Brundage standing before some Germans. While this sort of thing wouldn’t normally bother me, the editing is done so abruptly that I can’t help but notice it.

Surprisingly, the film doesn’t explore the race angle as much as you would expect. Instead, it goes for more of a quasi-inspirational film, with some thriller elements thrown in. There are some race issues addressed in the film, but if this issue had been developed more, it might have made the movie a bit more interesting in the story department. That said, overall, Race is a solid biopic. It does tackles some major themes, and the direction, acting, musical score, and settings all make it worthwhile for at least one viewing experience.

On a separate note, I’ve been writing film reviews for the Catamount Arts Blog now for the past two and a half years as part of my Internship experience in the Lyndon State College English Department’s Film Studies major. It has been a really fun experience for me, and I’ll definitely miss it, but sometimes you’ve gotta move on. Farewell to all and here’s the beginning of my new blogging adventure. I hope you stop by and let me know how you like it: http://dandavisddd.blogspot.com/

Long Live The Cinema!!!

My Golden Days: A Review: A Look-Back In Teenage Agony

My Golden Days is the story of Paul Dedalus, an anthropologist, played by Mathieu Amalric as an adult and Quentin Dolmaire as an adolescent, who returns to France after spending a lot of time travelling overseas. As he tries to board a train, and return home, he is detained for questioning by Intelligence Services, because someone with the same name and birthdate had been discovered dead in Australia. As Paul is being questioned, he begins to relate his childhood, and we flashback to him as a youthful young man, living with his crazy mother, his trip to the Soviet Union, and especially, his love affair with Esther.

My Golden Days is set up into several segments with titles, such as, “Opening”, “Esther”, and “Epilogue”. Within the first twenty minutes, since Paul is mistaken for a Communist, one might assume the film would turn into a spy-thriller, but it doesn’t. Instead, it is a coming of age film, set in France, and Paul’s character is a common one found in French cinema: a young man who spends too much time thinking.

There are some nice directing touches by director and co-writer, Arnaud Desplechin, in this film. One sequence, in particular, stood out when the film segways between Paul walking and Esther talking about missing him. Another nicely done film sequence was when Paul sees visions of his own mother while visiting Paris. Both of these sequences add to the overall feel of the film quite well.

Aside from Mathieu Amalric, I’m not familiar with most of the cast. This is largely due to Amalric having starred in many English Language productions, such as the Grand Budapest Hotel and Quantum of Solace, in addition to his numerous French productions. Of note, Amalric played this character, Paul Dedalus, twenty years earlier (1996) in Desplechin’s My Sex Life…Or How I Got Into An Argument. Amalric and Desplechin have worked together off and on since The Sentinel (1992)

The film’s musical score has a really atmospheric and mysterious feel to it, and in parts, it actually reminded me of the classic Bernard Hermann’s Vertigo soundtrack, with a dark piano piece playing in the background of a few scenes. The soundtrack also uses a lot of popular English language hip-hop and rap-songs in order to emphasize what was popular with teenagers in the 80’s, and 90’s.

The things that didn’t like about My College Days, is that it has a bit of air of apparent pretentious, particularly when Paul is talking to Esther, with dialogue like “A Chinese game, I can teach you”, and “I don’t crack off, I really don’t”, coming off as especially annoying and the sorta love triangle introduced near the end of the film, between Peter, Esther, and Jeanne Dedalus, a man she starts dating, while Paul is away. Also the film has a character named Robert, who rebels and runs away from his parents when they come to visit him, and he ends up staying with his cousins. This is not only poorly handled, but it serves no purpose within the context of the story, and is utterly meaningless. It could have been cut out entirely from the film, and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

My Golden Days is a well intentioned, well made film about a man relating his younger years. Some of the film could have been trimmed down, and loose ends tied up, but as it is, it’s a film that has a lot of interesting things to it and is at least worth checking out.

The Lady In The Van: A Review

The Lady in The Van, based off a true-story, is a surprisingly very well-made and funny black comedy/drama movie. It tells the story of a man who forms a relationship with an old, crazy woman who is living in her van that is parked in his driveway. This film works mainly because of the relationship between these two characters is believable, and Maggie Smith delivers an amazingly, wickedly amusing performance in the title role.

Adapted from his best-selling novel about his own life experience, Alan Bennett (played by Alex Jennings), is a writer and an actor who, in the 1970s, befriended Miss Mary Shepherd (played by Maggie Smith), a very eccentric elderly woman. He allowed Miss Shepherd to park her Bedford van in the driveway of his Camden home. As the story develops, over the course of fifteen years, Bennett discovers that Miss Shepherd is actually, in fact, Margaret Fairchild, a former, gifted pupil of the pianist, Alfred Cortot. In her past, Ms. Fairchild/Shepherd had played in a promenade concert, tried to become a nun, and after being committed to an institution, was diagnosed with a psychiatric condition.

The film has some nice directing touches by Nicholas Hytner, but it seems to rely a lot on the characters’ acting, and Maggie Smith carries the film quite well. Her sense of “craziness” is well portrayed, and believable whenever she’s overacting or yelling. “I didn’t choose. I was chosen”, she yelled at one point. Alex Jennings is very good in his part, as well, particularly in the sequences where he’s talking to himself, as if daydreaming, about what’s going on in his life. His performance is quite nuanced in that regard.

Two of my favorites directing touches were a montage of Alan Bennett, cleaning up and sweeping his house, and another depicting Shepherd in a flashback, showing her playing a piano, but a Catholic female priest stopped her before she could finish. These two scenes helped add to the overall feel of the film.

The film has a great amount of black humor in it. The script is quite good, and lines such as “Sex. I read about that, too”, and, “I know what I’m talking about”, made me laugh quite a bit.

The score by George Fenton, who actually appears near the beginning of the film as a conductor, is also quite marvelous. It feels like a circus going crazy, almost paralleling the lady as a character. It also has a very adventurous and comic feel to it. It even has a dark and sinister theme at various times running throughout, which is played in scenes where it looks like something bad is about to happen.

If The Lady in The Van has any faults, it’s that it’s storyline didn’t always keep me invested in it 100% of the time, but that’s only a somewhat minor flaw to an overall very enjoyable, well-made, and well-acted film.

The VVitch: A Review: An Unsettling Horror

The VVitch (2015) is a horror film in the truest sense. It doesn’t try to scare the audience by using jump-scares. It isn’t excessively gory, at least not until the end, and it tries to build up the horror and mystery, instead of throwing it in the audience’s face first. The VVitch isn’t so much of an unexpected surprise, as it is a masterfully made horror film. Like most well-made horror films, it isn’t even solely about the horror itself, as much as it is about a bunch of issues affecting everyone else.

                The VVitch is set in New England, in 1630, and tells the story of two devote Christians, William (played by Ralph Ineson), and Katherine (played by Kate Dickie), who live in the wilderness with their five children. When their youngest son is taken from them, and killed, they begin to turn against each other as they suspect that somebody in their midst is in fact practicing black magic.

What I largely liked about this film was its build-up in establishing the setting and atmosphere. By having The VVitch set entirely in the woods, director Ralph Eggers is able to create a much more complicated atmosphere by the grey perfect cinematography and many of the scenes being shot with no sound except chilling and intense music. These types of scenes, particularly when characters are being struck down by the witch, create a lot of real tension as the main characters grow increasingly paranoid and their growing insanity becomes all the more believable.

The actors’ performances added greatly to the film’s believability. In particular, Ralph Ineson, who plays the father, gives a very “dry performance” in tone, especially since he has to deliver a lot of Shakespearian-styled dialogue that was the norm for the time period. So, seeing him turn completely ballistic by the end, was insanely great. Also of note, is Anna Taylor-Joy, as the eldest daughter who is accused of being a witch, is great in her role.

                The VVitch has a very slow pace, lacks modern day horror convention, and contains some pretty graphic images of characters, a dog and baby being killed, which I thought was a bit unnecessarily shocking, But, that aside, The VVitch is a very well-made horror film that works. It’s definitely recommended, unless, of course, you have a weak stomach.

Youth: A Review

Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth is a considerably strong movie about the human embodiment and age, and a celebration of the internal spirit. The film works well thanks to being well-made, well edited, and well-acted.

Set in a hotel, Youth tells the story of two elderly friends, Fred and Mick, who are on vacation in an elegant hotel near the Alps. Fred Ballinger (played by Michael Caine) is a retired composer and conductor, and Mick Boyle (played by Harvey Keitel) is a (still working) movie director. Fred has some issues with his daughter’s attitude (played by Rachel Weisz), and Mick is just bewildered by the crazy people who are in the hotel, particularly Jimmy Tree (played by Paul Dano), a method actor who is constantly bewildered when people only remember him for his role as a robot. Mick is struggling to try and get his last intended film made, and is trying to get aging diva, Brenda Morel (played by Jane Fonda) involved. Meanwhile, Fred is retired from his musical career, but is considering performing again after he is approached to perform his song “Simple Songs” in front of Queen Elizabeth at Prince Philip’s birthday concert. Both stories meet and go, but are pretty effectively told.

One of the many things that really makes Youth work are the acting performances. There are a lot of seasoned actors in this film really showing their chops. Michael Caine has one of his best roles in this film. As the bitter and aging musician, Fred Ballinger, Caine is mostly restrained, showing much emotion through his raw energy. A lot of the times, especially when he and his daughter talk, there is much believability and genuine heart between the two. Harvey Keitel is also very good as Mick Boyle, a counterbalance to Ballinger, Boyle is more cool and collective, and not as easily depressed. He does struggle with trying to get his work done, but he’s very open about it. This is probably the best thing in years that Keitel has been involved in. Weisz is a nice support as Ballinger’s daughter, and I love her delivery of “You didn’t know the first thing about my mother”. Dano is his usual charmingly weird self. Jane Fonda has brief screen time, and her character is a bit of a nag and a diva, but her introduction sequence, filmed from the back, and then showing her smile in the reflection of a camera, and then finally facing the camera, really personifies her characters’ personality, and is well-done.

The film is actually a very director driven film. Sorrentino really shows his craftsmanship as a filmmaker, with some of the scenes he does here. There are, for example, some really bizarre dream sequences. One involves Fred imagining he is walking around the palace of Queen Elizabeth as the water slowly starts to rise and collapse on him. Another dream sequence involves Ballinger’s daughter, Lena, who is in a commercial with a bunch of cool recording artists. The dream literally ends with her being covered up with flames. Another sequence involves Mick trying to film an actress, and then he starts imagining actresses in different time periods as policewomen, Victorian style women, and even a femme fatale in the black and white stylings of Lauren Bacall. These sequences really don’t add much to the story, but they are great and very enjoyable to watch from a directing standpoint. Another nice directing touch is a montage, early on in the film, of people moving in and around the hotel, as it cuts back and forth to Fred scrunching up a candy-bar wrapper. There’s also nice humor in the film, with lines like “That’s a totally asinine idea”, and “Most insignificant woman in the world”, which made me chuckle.

As a lot of the film is about music, naturally music plays a key role. The Oscar-nominated song “Simple Songs Number 3” is a nice ballad, performed by Korean singer, Sumi Jo, and is bout the simple pleasures and struggles of life. The actual music in the film itself is pretty good, sounding very eloquent and well-layered.

Youth can suffer from some pretentious dialogue, and feel a little overdone in its pacing and directing, and this is Sorrentino’s first English language film, which explains the dialogue. However, once you get past those not so significant misgivings, I think you’ll find a mostly enjoyable film about the human spirit, and how, at any age, we can and do keep trying to accomplish things. It’s certainly a film worth checking out.

Only Yesterday: A Review

Only Yesterday (1991) is an anime from Studio Ghibli, that is only now (finally) being released in many non-Japanese markets. Directed by Isao Takahata (Grave of The Fireflies, The Tale of Princess Kaguya), it tells the story of a 27-year-old worker named Taeko Okajima, who travels to the countryside to meet some friends, while reminiscing about her childhood in the 1960’s. Beautiful, poignant, and full of heart, Only Yesterday is a real winner of an anime film.

One of the things that makes Only Yesterday work so well, is how it presents the main character of Taeko (dubbed in English as an adult by Daisy Ridley, and as a child by Allison Fernadez). Taeko is clearly a confident, calm, and reasonably likeable character, despite being presented as being a bit not so bright as a child. Her relationships with her family are seen in flashbacks, including her understanding mother and stubborn, somewhat unlikeable father, and are believable. As is her relationship with Toshio, a farmer who teaches her how difficult and different city life is to that of country life. The flashbacks, as well as her present day story, really contribute to the characters’ story-arc throughout the film.

Only Yesterday is very unique in how it presents its animation. There are several day-dream sequences, where Taeko, as a child has a pink, yellow, and blue sky background. These sequences are clearly done in an attempt to show her imagination going wild. Additionally, director Takahata, in a rare move in Japanese animation, decided to record the adult sequences first, and then animated them. This was an attempt to give the characters more realistic muscles and facial expressions. Thankfully, it paid off, as the film is gorgeous to look at. Allegedly, this is what led to the film taking so long to be released in the United States as dubbing into English would have been extremely hard given these circumstances.

As is the case with as all Studio Ghibli productions, the music by Katsu Hoshi is simply amazing. From the beautiful piano tune, to the Western-sounding theme played at the start of the school’s baseball game, and the Oriental-sounding music played near the end, it all works well to help create the overall mood of the film.

Only Yesterday is a very charming and beautiful movie, about growing-up, and really letting go of the past. It was fun to follow Taeko’s story with beautiful animation and music. It’s a film that can be appreciated by both children and adults, and it feels more realistic than fantasy, and the better for that.

Trumbo A Review: Writers Life

Trumbo was a bit of an unexpected surprise. Going in to see the film, I was expecting a pretty generic bio of a man’s life. What I did not expect was a nice tribute to Hollywood screenwriters, as a whole. Trumbo isn’t just about blacklisting Communists, which they did in Hollywood for a decade. It is about freedom of speech and tolerance of other people’s political beliefs. Helped by a strong cast and a solid script, Trumbo rises surprisingly above your average biopic to become something quite special.

Trumbo details the story of Dalton Trumbo, one of Hollywood’s top screenwriters (Spartacus, Roman Holiday) and how he and many others Hollywood artists were blacklisted for their political beliefs. The film details Trumbo specifically, as he struggles to keep his career alive after being publicly criminalized, and turned away by the major Hollywood studios. It successfully portrays the deep affect this all had on his family and friends.

What makes Trumbo work so well, is how these real-life characters are conveyed through the performances of the film’s excellent cast. In addition, in recreating real-life scenes, the film’s director uses archival footage and photographs, post-converted black and white scenes, and digitally inserts the actors into prior footage, which adds to its overall authentic feel. As Douglas Trumbo, Bryan Cranston deserved his Oscar nominations. He’s really, really good in this role. Perhaps the scenes that I found Cranston best in are the ones where he’s interacting with his family, where he seems most natural and believable.

Diane Lane is really good as Trumbo’s wife, Cleo, conveying enough energy for the role of a strong supportive spouse, mother, and co-worker. Louis C.K. plays Arlen Hird, another blacklisted writer and one of Trumbo’s friends, but his looks and mannerisms don’t necessarily fit the 1940’s and 1950’s as well as Cranston and Lane’s do in the film. John Goodman is great as Frank King, one of the Kings Brothers, who ran their B movie film studio. Goodman signs Dalton Trumbo up as a contract writer, and doesn’t let the likes of the Hollywood Alliance get the best of him. His anger and excitement while furiously destroying glass with a baseball bat is believable. Helen Mirren, who plays Hedda Hopper, a former actress turned gossip columnist and well known for her fabulous hats, is one of the film’s lead antagonists. Mirren’s acting is superb, as usual, except for her forced American accent. As a villain, at times, the script makes her come off as being almost a bit of a cartoon monster, which is something I didn’t appreciate all that much about the film.

The director of Trumbo, Jay Roach, who’s known for directing comedies like Meet the Parents and Austin Powers does a good job, but it’s John McNamara’s script that really elevates the adaptation of Bruce Cook’s book, TRUMBO. It’s bits of humorous dialogue like, “Well, what are we gonna do”, and “Do you have to say everything like it’s going to be chiseled”, that lighten up the mostly serious script of the unfair treatment of blacklisted writers and other film artists of this period of Hollywood history.

I quite enjoyed Trumbo, a decent film, and a tribute to screenwriters, who, in general, tend to be overlooked in the Hollywood scheme of things.  This film is not to be missed.

Embrace of The Serpent: A Native’s Story

The Oscar nominated Embrace of the Serpent is nothing short of a miracle. A Colombian film, shot in black and white, features some of the greatest atmosphere I have seen from a 2015  film. Cico Guerra’s motion picture is an absolutely fascinating piece, which may not appeal to everyone, but certainly had me enthralled with eyes wide open most of the time I was watching it. A real film stunner you might say.

Taking place in 1909 and 1940, Embrace of The Serpent details the story of two explorers, one German named Theodor Koch-Grunberg, and the other American, named Richard Evans Schultes. They find a Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman, and last member of his tribe while on their quest to find a rare yakruna, a very sacred plant. Loosely inspired by the true diaries of these two men, the film details much of the struggles and the people the crew encounters on their journey on the Amazonian River.

One of the things that makes Embrace of the Serpent work so well is that much of the filmmaking is bent on giving perspectives to different characters and locations. For example, there’s a long-widened shot near the beginning of the film where we see the back of the native Karamakate as he first encounters the two explorers. It’s quite fascinating to watch, and really sets up the overall tone of the film. Another example is when we see the shot of a random panther, and we see the large cat looking at the ship of the crew, perhaps trying to get at them, before deciding to settle on eating a snake. It’s filmmaking at its absolute best, and it helps tremendously to escalate the overall somewhat dreary nature of the film.

There isn’t a lot of music in this film. Instead, there’s a bunch of sound effects of cricking, chirping, water falling, and all of the things you’d find in a jungle. There are some ancient styled tribal music used in a few scenes, particularly when one of the tribe leaders they encounter uses a Latin chant in order to give a rousing speech to his people. It’s quite effective and helps to build the mood.  Another good piece of music is playing when they show a long forest shot, which feels quite techno.

There are some really cool sequences in the film, too. The opening features shots of sea creatures, such as an octopus in the water, and a snake swimming before it cuts to the title card. There’s also an apparent dream sequence near the end in which the Karamakate‘s eyes glow yellow and then they shoot out rays. The scene then changes to the stars, where we see constellation designs in the sky. It’s a cool sequence, and it really comes out of nowhere.

Most of the acting in the film is pretty good, but special mention goes to the lead actor playing Theo, Jan Bijovet, whose breakdown and ultimate craziness is believable. Especially, during a sequence in which the crew encounters a village of natives, and one of them gets shot in the arm during an unusually over the top scene.

Embrace of The Serpent is a real surprise. It’s a film that builds and builds to an unusual climax. It does feel split into segments, involving characters going from one location to the next, but that’s the beauty of it. It doesn’t try to shy away from the dangers of the wild, and it feels like a realistic, adventure movie. There are a few graphic scenes, including one in which native children get whipped, which is disturbing, but overall, as far as Foreign Language films, and native stories go, this one’s a real winner.

Son of Saul: A Review: A Powerful War

I’ve seen plenty of war films. Some show the true terror and horror of war and don’t shy away from the violence. Other war films downplay the violence and make war out to be glorious. It’s rare I see a film that lacks a huge amount of violence and blood, and yet, can be so affective at the same time. That’s where Lazlo Nemes’ Son of Saul comes in. Son of Saul, which is the first Hungarian film I’ve ever seen, is a war film that is so devastating, without excessive violence.

 Son of Saul is the story of Saul Auslander, a Hungarian prisoner, working as a member of the Sonderkommando at one of the Auschwitz Crematoriums. Saul wants to bury a corpse of a boy he calls his son. Much of the film follows Saul’s trials and plans as he tries to save the remains of the son he never really took care of.

Much of the credit of Son of Saul’s success should go to the lead actor of the film who plays Saul, Geza Rohrig. A relative newcomer to film, Rohrig is quite expressive, and especially for a role that requires a lot of physical acting. One of the great things about Son of Saul is just how sparse the dialogue is, and what dialogue is there is usually drowned out by sound. Our main character, Saul, doesn’t even speak until twenty minutes into the film. His first words being “Doctor, please”, and Rohrig delivers those lines like a man who is on a serious mission.

The first fifteen minutes of the film, in fact, are shot from the perspective of the protagonists, and we only see the rest of the characters from the back. Aside from the great filmmaking aspect of Son of Saul, there’s a lot to appreciate about this film. The cinematography is lovely, very brown and very muddy, fitting the depressing tone of the film.

There are a lot of really uncomfortable powerful scenes in the film, but most of them have the violence being downplayed in the background. There’s a scene where we are shown a gun shooting just as a fire breaks out. It’s a very intense moment, as we hear screaming babies, but we don’t actually see it directly. Instead, we (the audience) experience that scene in an image, and in a way, it becomes more powerful, as a result. Those with really weak stomachs may not enjoy this film as much as I did. The overall experience of the film left me feeling devastated and moved by this man’s experiences.

Carol: A Review: A Tale of Two Lovers

Todd Hayne’s Carol is very much a melodramatic film, while not as overbearing and almost bordering on satire as Haynes’ Far from Heaven (2002). The film is set in the 1950’s and is based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel, Carol, a story of two women from different backgrounds. Therese Belivet (played by Rooney Mara) is a clerk working in a Manhattan department store who wants to go on to do bigger things. When Therese meets Carol Aird (played by Cate Blanchett), who is an older woman in a loveless marriage, their friendship develops. Meanwhile, Carol’s husband, Harge (played by Kyle Chandler), begins to question and confront Carol’s relationships with women, including with her other friend, Abby (played by Sarah Paulson), and her role as a mother.

This movie is not exceptionally directed, and its script is nothing to write home about. hat made this film work for me though, are the performances. Cate Blanchett is very good as the title character, Carol, as per-usual, but who really elevates the film, and is the real star, even having more screen time, despite being nominated as Best Supporting Actress, is Rooney Mara as Therese. Mara is exceptionally good. She’s really restrained and plays a very conflicted character quite well. Her moments of quietness and somberness reflect how good she can be as an actress. When she tells her boyfriend, Richard (played by Jake Lacy), “I’ll take everything”, you believe her. The rest of the cast is pretty good, too. Sarah Paulson is quite good as Carol’s lesbian friend Abby, and the male cast, including Kyle Chandler provides nice support.

One of the aspects of the film, I didn’t like, was how most of the men in this film are not portrayed favorably. Carol’s husband, Harge, is over-controlling of his wife, and Therese’s boyfriend, Richard, seems to only care about himself at first. As the film goes on, these traits seem to be downplayed and the men’s characters are better developed, but, in general, it wasn’t enough for me to care about them.

Carter Burwell’s musical score is exceptional, and one of 2015’s very best. It’s dramatic, poignant, serious, magical, and even when the film has a bit of a tonal shift, a bit dark. It’s just great pieces of music throughout. Carol was nominated for six Oscar awards, but did not win as one of 2015’s very best, but it didn’t need to. With everything it has going for it: great acting performances, good writing and dialogue, as well as, an outstanding musical score, it’s a good enough film all on its own.