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6 Movies like Carol: Star-crossed Lovers

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Matthew Watson itcherMovies like ‘Carol’, ‘Desert Hearts’ and ‘Hannah Free’ will take hold of every romantic bone in your body and shake you until you’re a soppy, heartbroken mess. You’ll be hoping and praying that the lovers will prevail in these emotionally soul-aching spectacles that’ll leave you aching to tell your nearest and dearest just how much you love them. ~ Matthew Watson

Heartstring Pullers

Todd Haynes’ Cannes favourite ‘Carol’, an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s ‘The Price of Salt’ starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as star-crossed lesbian lovers, is a beautifully nuanced 50s-set love affair.
 
A shy department-store clerk, Therese (Mara), catches the eye of the well-spoken shopper, Carol (Blanchett), whilst the latter is out hunting, rather cluelessly, for her daughter’s Christmas present. Their first meeting is hardly unusual: a helpful shop assistant helping a confused customer on the latest gift ideas. But a forgotten glove – whether left purposely or not – ignites the beginning of a blisteringly addictive relationship.
 
Reminiscent in style of a 50s fairy tale, accompanied by an ear-pricking soundtrack from Carter Burwell which perfectly – in period-defining fashion – dictates the film’s tempo, Haynes’ feature is a sombre masterpiece woven together through the majestic use of sound and imagery.
 
Sexy but tender, there’s no filth, or sleaze; it’s all in a lingering glance or a brush of a shoulder. It’s a stylish old-school romance, set in a wonderfully atmospheric Christmassy New York where you can almost feel the cold winter chill glistening off of the screen.
 
Both Mara and Blanchett, with their contrasting, yet equally as compelling displays, are fantastic, but Haynes’ direction and the wonderfully adapted script from Phyllis Nagy capture the spirt of the times, as well as encapsulating a beautiful love affair in what is an awe-inspiring cinematic treat.
***

Movies Similar to ‘Carol’…

‘Desert Hearts’ (Donna Deitch, 1985)

In 1950s America where being gay was, to put it lightly, still very much frowned upon (heck, it was illegal!), a middle-aged woman, Vivian (Helen Shaver), arrives in Nevada looking to escape her failing marriage.

Unsatisfied, confused and downright disillusioned, she’s drawn to an out-and-proud rancher’s daughter, Cay (Patricia Charbonneau), beginning an unlikely but strangely beautiful romance.

Awe-inspiring surroundings and country songs are aplenty in this deeply moving lesbian love affair.  

Similarity Match: 90%
The time period’s the same, but the roles are reversed. This time it’s a younger woman taking charge in a relationship full of insecurity and internal battles.

***
‘Blue Is the Warmest Colour’ (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)

Kechiche’s coming-of-age tale about two young friends-turned-lovers, Adele and Emma, is a critically acclaimed powerhouse feature which examines society and sexuality simultaneously in particularly intimate fashion.

With two excellent leading performances from Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, this three hour spectacle is a delightful bundle of love, lust, hope and, at times, sadness.

Similarity Match: 85%
A more youthful and spirited romance, but like ‘Carol’ it consists of very similar themes and two exceptionally strong and contrasting central performances.

***
‘Hannah Free’ (Wendy Jo Carlton, 2009)

Like a less cheesy Nicholas Sparks story, Carlton’s play-turned-film of a lifelong lesbian romance is a guilt-free tearjerker.

Focusing on two Midwestern women, Hannah and Rachel, who fell in love during a time when their relationship felt near impossible to comprehend, their story takes us through a wildly muddled romance – full of war, infidelity and social acceptance – that leads to the pair living out the remainder of their days together in a care home.

Similarity Match: 75%
Wider in scope with a larger sprinkling of sentimentality, ‘Hannah Free’ still battles many of the same social issues that are evident in ‘Carol’.

***
‘Fire’ (Deepa Mehta, 1996)

A highly contentious film in the world of Bollywood, this banned feature deals with female sexuality very rarely spoken about in highly religious sections of the world.

Mehta’s story is about two frustrated wives, Radha (Shabana Azmi) and Sita (Nandita Das), who find comfort – at first as friends, but then as much more – with one another in a beautifully sensitive portrayal of love, lust and sexuality.

Similarity Match: 70%
Like ‘Carol’ it’s an extremely powerful, and in its own context controversial, love affair handled with an awful lot of care, yet it carries with it a racier subtext which Haynes’ film doesn’t have.

***

If You Like ‘Carol’, You Will Like…

Fancy something a little edgier to your romance tale? Maybe a few laughs, or something a little darker?

Films like ‘Do I Love You?’ and ‘Lost and Delirious’ might just take your fancy…

‘Do I Love You?’ (Lisa Gornick, 2002)

A highly philosophical, life-evaluating take on a failed lesbian love affair with more laughs than you’d think, Gornick’s interesting spectacle delves into female sexuality and everything that comes with it in open, honest and at times, humorous fashion.

More of a social commentary than an outright love story, ‘Do I Love You?’ still deals with many of the weighty issues which made ‘Carol’ such a beautifully orchestrated cinematic treat.

***
‘Lost and Delirious’ (Léa Pool, 2001)

This darkly erotic teenage romance thriller, starring Mischa Barton and involving a trio of boarding school girls is an unconventional take on the coming-of-age genre which digs deep into first loves, sexuality and, ultimately, tragedy.

A highly seductive outing full of lust and longing, it’s an intriguing spectacle that adds an extra level of spice to the lesbian romance genre.

***

Love Is In The Air

I’m feeling rather flustered right now… it must be the romantic in me! Right, I’d best go and buy some chocolates and flowers for the better half. 

Do you agree with the recommendations? Let us know in the comment section below.

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