Carol ★★★★½

Achingly romanic, heartfelt and stirring, Carol is a stunning picture of love, discovery and tenderness, every bit as beautiful in its visuals as it is in its script and thematic content.

With Christmas as its backdrop, Carol feels all the more magical. Delicate in the love story at the centre and careful in its approach, Carol's refusal to define these characters by their sexuality is notable and sensitively considers and provides insight into being gay in the 1950s. Phyllis Nagy's screenplay is beautifully-rendered, sophisticated and touching, brimming with fine dialogue and character development; Therese's progression is particularly notable, wonderfully capturing the emotion of first love, personal understanding and rationalisation.

Golden, career-best performances are registered by both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, both utterly captivating and believable as secret lovers. Their dynamic and chemistry is palpable and extraordinary, passionately simmering in its intensity but delicate and carefully-considered at the same time. I'd go as far as to suggest Blanchett and Mara make one of the best on-screen couples in quite some time.

Todd Haynes' sensual, luscious direction is cinematic and timeless. Emphasising the tenderness effectively and exploring the anxiety of loving freely at such a repressive time, he finds both a beauty and claustrophobia in the aesthetic. Haynes treats every shot like a photograph, spell-binding and focused, sumptuous and visually soaring, all enhanced by breath-taking cinematography from Edward Lachman. The colour palettes create a visual mood board accentuated sonically by Carter Burwell's score. It all swirls together wonderfully, crafting an atmospheric air and quality that ensures Carol is such a tremendous, all-round cinematic experience.

Carol is beautiful, moving, poignant and surprisingly relevant, with first-rate performances and stunning visuals evoked by a talented director, with such aplomb and skill. An utterly stunning film that is bound to be a classic in years to come.

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