We’re used to the global fandom reserved for those huge “four-quadrant” blockbusters that dominate pop culture discourse. What’s far less common are displays of public passion for a literary adaptation of a period piece that only earned about forty million at the box office. Todd Haynes’ Carol might not be the first movie to do moderate business but later inspire enormous devotion, with quotes, memes, GIFs, fan art, fan fiction and so on, but it’s certainly one of the best — there’s even an unofficial ‘Carol Day’: April 17, the day in the film that Cate Blanchett’s Carol and Rooney Mara’s Therese reunite.
Todd Haynes, who directed the film, isn’t just a master filmmaker, he’s a consummate film scholar and many of his movies overtly reference and pay homage to other films, or periods, of cinema. Carol has those tendencies too, but, among the many reasons why this film is so especially beloved is its photojournalistic visual style. It’s a far cry from Hollywood’s typical Technicolor melodramas of the period, and thus, perhaps to modern audiences, it offers a more realistic, intimate feel to the romance of the movie that is still, outrageously, discriminated against.