Australian actor Cate Blanchett’s film Carol – a lesbian love story – is a leading contender for the Palme d’Or trophy.
Early reviews for the film, set in New York in the 1950s and directed by American film-maker Todd Haynes, had been so glowing that it is already generating Oscar buzz – at the very least for the Australian actress.
Blanchett, 46, who already has two acting Oscars, for The Aviator and Blue Jasmine, is “incandescent” in the role of a socialite who begins a relationship with a shopgirl (played by Rooney Mara) despite the personal and societal hazards that poses, according to Variety magazine.
It has “supreme intelligence, breathtaking poise and filmmaking craft of the most sophisticated yet accessible order”, Variety said.
Reviewers were nearly unanimous over Haynes’ “masterful” restraint, which drew the audience along until the end, when a stately yet powerful climax brought tears to the eyes of even hardened film critics.
Movie website Indiewire called it “a love story that starts at a trickle, swells gradually to a torrent, and finally bursts the banks of your heart”.
The movie is based on a book by Patricia Highsmith, who wrote crime thrillers including The Talented Mr Ripley.
Here, there is no “crime” committed – although the women’s relationship is viewed as such in the reproving period in which it is set.
“The almost-pathological paranoia that is usually defined as criminal is, in this case, romantic,” Haynes, who is gay, explained to The Hollywood Reporter.
“Even before it became a story about lesbian love – which was, of course, criminal, as defined by the world at that time – it was just about love itself as something criminal.”
Haynes and Blanchett had worked together before, on I’m Not There, in which Blanchett is one of a cast of actors who play Bob Dylan.
If Carol ends up winning Cannes’s Palme d’Or trophy in a week’s time, it won’t be the first time a sensitive picture about a lesbian couple has won over the jury.
Blue is the Warmest Colour, a French lesbian drama, picked up the top prize in 2013.