Carol is a 2015 romantic drama film directed by Todd Haynes. The screenplay by Phyllis Nagy is based on the 1952 romance novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith (republished as Carol in 1990). The film stars Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacy, and Kyle Chandler. Set in New York City during the early 1950s. Carol premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 17, 2015, and was released in the United States on November 20 and in the United Kingdom on November 27. Grossing over $42 million on an $11 million budget, the film was praised for Haynes's direction and the performances of Blanchett and Mara, and was the best-reviewed film of 2015. Carol competed for the Palme d'Or at Cannes, where Mara tied with Emmanuelle Bercot for the Best Actress award. The film received many accolades, including five Golden Globe Award nominations, six Oscar nominations, and nine BAFTA Award nominations; as well as five Dorian Awards and awards from the New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and National Society of Film Critics. It featured prominently in several "best of" film lists.
During the Christmas season of 1952, aspiring photographer Therese Belivet is working in Frankenberg's department store in Manhattan. She meets a glamorous woman, Carol Aird, who is searching for a doll for her daughter Rindy. At Therese's recommendation, Carol purchases a model train set instead. When Carol departs she leaves her gloves on the counter. Therese mails them to her using Frankenberg's sales slip with Carol's name and address.
Therese's boyfriend, Richard, wants her to go to France with him, hoping they will marry, but she is ambivalent about their relationship. A mutual friend, Dannie, invites Therese to his workplace, The New York Times, and offers to introduce her to a photo editor friend. Meanwhile, Carol is going through a difficult divorce from her husband, Harge. Carol calls Frankenberg's to thank the clerk who returned the gloves, and invites Therese to lunch. Therese visits Dannie and he kisses her, but she becomes uncomfortable and leaves.
Carol invites Therese to her home in New Jersey. She stops to purchase a Christmas tree, and Therese takes candid photographs of her. Harge arrives unexpectedly to take Rindy to Florida for Christmas; he becomes suspicious of Therese as Carol had an affair years before with her friend Abby. Therese witnesses their argument. After Rindy leaves, a distressed Carol takes Therese to the train station so she can return home.
Carol calls to apologize and they meet at Therese's apartment, where Carol surprises her with a suitcase containing a gift of a Canon camera and film. Carol has learned that Harge is petitioning the judge to consider a "morality clause" against her, threatening to expose her homosexuality and give him full custody of Rindy. She decides to take a road trip to escape the stress of the divorce proceedings and invites Therese to join her. Richard accuses Therese of being infatuated with Carol, and predicts Carol will soon tire of her. The two argue and their relationship comes to an end. On the second night of the trip, Therese meets a traveling salesman, Tommy Tucker.
On New Year's Eve, Carol and Therese kiss for the first time and have sex. The next morning, they discover that Tucker is actually a private investigator hired by Harge to obtain evidence against Carol. Carol confronts Tucker, threatening him at gunpoint, but he claims to have already sent the tape recordings to Harge. Carol and Therese turn back. The following day, in Chicago, Therese learns that Carol has flown home to fight for custody of her daughter, having asked Abby to drive Therese home. Abby gives her a letter from Carol. Back at home, Therese telephones Carol, but knowing that she risks losing custody of Rindy if she continues her relationship with Therese, Carol hangs up.
Therese creates a portfolio of her photographs and gets a job at The New York Times. In the meantime, Carol has been seeing a psychotherapist as a condition of the divorce settlement. During a confrontational meeting in mid-April with divorce lawyers, Carol suddenly admits to the truth of what the tapes contain, and refuses to deny her sexuality. To avoid going to court and the likelihood of a public scandal, she tells Harge that he can have custody of Rindy but insists on regular visitation.
Carol writes to Therese, and they meet in the lounge of the Ritz Tower Hotel. Carol reveals she is going to work for a furniture house, and has taken an apartment on Madison Avenue. Therese declines Carol's invitation to live with her. Carol tells Therese that she is meeting associates in the Oak Room, and that if she changes her mind they can have dinner. Therese remains still and Carol whispers "I love you." They are interrupted by Jack, a colleague who has not seen Therese in months, and Carol departs.
Therese accepts Jack's ride to a party, but finds that she cannot connect with anyone. Therese heads to the Oak Room. She scans the diners and sees Carol at a table. Therese hesitates, before walking towards Carol. Their eyes meet. Carol gazes at Therese with a smile that slowly grows.