Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2015

Published In

Film Quarterly


Rather than a forward-looking lesbian representation, Todd Haynes's Carol, an adaptation by Phyllis Nagy of Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel, The Price of Salt, looks to images and affective investments of the past to explore lesbian representability, the historical discourses and aesthetic codes through which desire between women can be recognized. The collaboration brings together preoccupations from Haynes's oeuvre and themes from Highsmith's that question reception of the film in terms of a happy ending and future progress. Through evocative art direction, camerawork, and star performances, the film invites the viewer to share the perspective of Therese (Rooney Mara), a nearly blank character written as Highsmith's stand-in, who is subsumed by desire for Carol (Cate Blanchett), a wealthy, discontented suburban wife and mother whom she meets by chance. The lovers’ exclusivity, and even their persecution, are understood as elements of fantasy that ultimately shed light on queer history.


This work is freely available courtesy of University of California Press.