Carol ★★★★½

A clinic in arthouse style: form is content, engage every sense, quote the right films, elicit performances that are heavily mannered but feel naturalistic, pour everything into the mise-en-scène. It begins, as these art films must so that you know how to read them, with opening shots that establish surfaces as patterns and give us a crane shot to establish setting and follow a character who, in a humorous turn, is a false lead, because men won't be the focus of most of the next two hours. Haynes and Nagy get how to use the toolbox (both technical and theoretical) to tell a falling-in-love story.

Haynes shows off his love of movies throughout, but that love is also a means to understanding people and loving the world. He's the angel flung from outer space, and movies are his photographs to understand people and ultimately to love those people and this world. In that way he's the anti-Tarantino whose film-love often feels like a dead end (sometimes an enjoyable one).

All this serves this love story / coming-of-age story / social problem picture / women's picture. And it works as each of those stories. Somehow.