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Released 27 November 2015
Director Todd Haynes

Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy, Sarah Paulson, John Magaro, Cory Michael Smith, Kevin Crowley, Nik Pajic
Writer(s) Phyllis Nagy

Elizabeth Karlsen, Tessa Ross, Christine Vachon, Stephen Woolley

United Kingdom, United States, France
Running Time 118 minutes
Genre Drama, romance
Rating 15A

Women in love.

Throughout his deliciously diverse output, director Todd Haynes has always been acknowledged as a master stylist. Nowhere is this more evident than in the films that have taken their cues from the 1950s Hollywood melodrama. Far From Heaven and Mildred Pierce are both beautifully lush creations that shine from the screen. Thankfully though, this emphasis on style does not come at the expense of substance – a fact that is staggeringly evident from Carol.

Here, the content informs the style. Though the period detail is beautifully evocative of a particular time and place, it never overwhelms the delicate performances. The Douglas Sirk excess is viewed through steamy, rain spattered windows – we are observing this glamourous world from a distance. This stylistic choice beautifully echoes the lives of Carol (Cate Blanchett) and Therese (Rooney Mara); their world is built on silence, glances, and the complex systems of suggestion and inference that were crucial to the lives of gay people at the time.

The pair meet while Carol is shopping for a Christmas present for her young daughter. Shop assistant Therese is immediately captivated by the older woman and when Carol invites her for lunch, she doesn't hesitate to agree. Carol is in the process of divorcing her husband (Kyle Chandler) and finds some happiness in her relationship with Therese. However, when divorce lawyers begin using her sexuality as a reason why she should not receive equal custody of her daughter, she is forced into the heartbreaking decision between her love for Therese and her love for her child.

Despite the emotive subject matter, Carol is a very subtle film. Viewers may be expecting full-on melodrama but thanks to the beautifully restrained performances and the watchful direction from Haynes, the relationship between the two women develops in a realistically tentative way. The film achieves an emotional honesty that never needs to explode into tear-soaked hysterics in order to hit home with the viewer. In many ways its stiff upper lip recalls Brief Encounter (a film with whom it also shares its cyclical structure) - high praise indeed! Carol is a wonderfully romantic piece of filmmaking that has style and subtlety.

- Linda O'Brien