March 14, 2017 - "If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it is yours. If it doesn't, it never was."

Those words of pop wisdom, along with a bird soaring high against a clear blue sky, were on one of the many posters that adorned the walls of my teenage bedroom. And, they sum up the relationship at the center of Carol.

The 2015 romance, set in the early 1950s and based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, earned Cate Blanchett an Oscar nod for Best Actress. Rooney Mara was nominated as Best Supporting Actress. And, the film also received nominations for screenplay, music, costumes, and cinematography.

Blanchett stars as Carol Aird, a well-to-do housewife who lives in a big house in New Jersey, just outside New York City. That may sound great, but she's divorcing her husband (Kyle Chandler), in no small part because she had an affair a few years back with her best friend, Abby (Sarah Paulson). Caught in the middle is the couple's four-year-old daughter, Rindy.

About two weeks before Christmas, Carol goes to a department store in the city to buy a present for Rindy. That's where she meets the much younger Therese Belivet (Mara), a clerk at the store. Carol leaves her gloves behind. Therese returns them, and so begins a relationship that quickly turns into a love affair. But, the road to lasting love does not run smoothly. Carol must deal with the conventions of the time and Therese must figure out what she really wants.

Overall Review: *** This is a tough one because the movie has so much going for it: The score is fabulous; the performances are nuanced; the costumes and the cinematography are great. The dialogue is spare but exquisite. It's good enough that I watched it three times in one week and got something new out of the film each time.

Having said that, character development is lacking, especially for Therese. When they first have lunch, Carol notes that Therese seems to have been "flung from outer space." I think she means that Therese is a person the likes of whom she's never met before. But, in terms of the movie, it also indicates that Therese just sort of appears. We don't get much of a past for her: Did she go to college? Where did she grow up? What brought her to New York? How old is she? How much older is Carol? We know more about Therese going forward, but, assuming that she is actually from Earth, we don't get many hints about why she's like what she's like.

I can't help but think that Carol could have been great instead of just good if Anthony Minghella had been around to direct it. Minghella, who died in 2008 at just 54 years old, won an Oscar for directing The English Patient in 1996. Three years later, he directed Blanchett in The Talented Mr. Ripley, another film based on a novel by Highsmith and set in the 1950s. The opening shot of Carol seemed very much like one that Minghella might have chosen, and his talent for slowly unmasking characters until their true selves are revealed would have served this film well.