Direction so painstakingly precise that almost every frame here seems to exude emotion, Haynes turning the outside world into an expressionistic vessel for interior emotion, everything from windows, doorways to panes of glass perfectly calibrated to mirror what our central characters cannot say (and what they cannot say is perhaps the most important aspect of the film). It's nothing short of aesthetic perfection, jaw-droppingly executed from the very first frame yet never in a way that obscures the importance of the film's two lead performances (Haynes has an uncanny ability at directing the eye to subtle nuances in gesture and expression within the frame). Also the small moments of abstraction here are genuinely astounding, a car-ride shared between two potential lovers turned into a hazy whirlwind of close-ups and colour, extrapolating upon the passionate emotions which these two women seem to share without so much as a word being spoken.

What the film gets so right, and what it explores in a way that I've rarely seen in any type of cinema, is the profound weight of a repressed attraction, where a touch of the hand can mean more than a kiss, and where what is left unspoken seems to hang in the air like a shared thought - one of the most passionate films I've ever seen, yet one which remains almost entirely tasteful. Haynes constantly uses his camera to help express this weight (and I feel as if his being LGBT himself helps massively in allowing him to single in on what is truly important), but both Mara and Blanchett give a virtual masterclass in expressing these hard to define emotions through nothing more than a mere glance. Mara's face here becomes akin to a human canvas, her reserved nature giving every subtle movement emotional weight, so utterly controlled in how she teases out her character's interior state. Her character is a passive one, and by positioning this quiet performance against Blanchett's more outwardly expressive sensibilities, the contrast between our central characters feels palpable (and yet it's within this contrast that I feel a lot of the shared attraction is born).

There's also a lot here in the way of marriage, men and sexuality that feels very honest, with the respective 'partners' of each woman confusedly, almost pathetically latching on to their own ideas of what their relationships 'should' be, giving no thought to the way a true relationship is born from cooperation and coexistence (most telling in the moment where Mara's potential boyfriend lists all the things that she had made him do for her, ironically subverted when she implies that all these things were never asked for, simply given with the assumption that they were what she had wanted). None of this is ever forceful, simply ideas which become evident when looking at the film's many broader implications.

Hard to think of a film in 2016 that's going to top this for me. The years first (and maybe only?) masterpiece.

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