Carol, Todd Haynes' utterly immersive tale of forbidden same-sex love in 1950s New York, resonates on many levels and is a truly transportative experience.
There's so much to love here, from the faultless performances, sumptuous costumes and sets, the subtlety of emotions which are conveyed so perfectly with just a passing glance, to the vivid and often unexpected cinematography.
Cate Blanchett is mesmerizing as the titular character, drawing you in with her mysterious gaze, yet never revealing too much, leaving her character fundamentally unknowable. Carol is an unhappily married, wealthy housewife who seems dissatisfied with all aspects of her life apart from her young daughter, whom she dotes on.
She meets Therese (Rooney Mara), a naive, nervy young woman who works in a department store and almost devours her with lingering looks, appearing predatory at first. However, their relationship is a slow burner, blossoming over martini lunches and a road trip to Chicago.
The course of love never runs smooth, and these two have more than a few obstacles in their course, not least the societal shame and discrimination associated with being openly gay in the '50s. Carol's marriage with her solid but possessive husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) is falling apart, and his one way in which to keep her under control is to threaten to deny her custody of her daughter.
Cate Blanchett steals the show here, but Rooney Mara is also utterly captivating as Therese, who grows from a slightly awkward girl shifting in her seal uncomfortably to an assured young lady who holds herself with ease. Kyle Chandler is also excellent as Harge who is brimming with anger that is just bubbling under the surface.
Edward Lachman's inspired cinematography lends the film a painterly feel, the lighting, shifting focus and stunning reflections of raindrops on car windows elevate the work beyond the ordinary.
Carol is a sensuous, enchanting piece of work which vividly and realistically recreates the 1950s in American in a new way - never seeming twee or idealised. The richly recreated sets make the real world seem all the more lacklustre after emerging from the cinema, but the impression this beautiful piece of filmmaking leaves on you lingers for much longer than the 2 hour running time.