Carol ★★★★½

This film is cinema in its purest narrative form, made to absolute perfection. Words cannot really describe just how well Haynes uses the cinematic language to create such a delicate, powerful, and heartwarming film and how breathtaking the collision of the powerful forces of Mara and Blanchett is.

In every action, every shot, every line of dialogue, and every frame, Haynes, Nagy, and all of the actors (Chandler and Paulson both perform as marvelously as the leads) infuse meaning, substance, and nuance in a way in order to advance the story in an organic way, deepen the characters, or develop the time period and setting. There is never a moment in which the viewer doubts the realism and authenticity (at least in a way that is not a use of artifice) of the film's time period and of the way people interact. Every moment aches with repression and heartbreak in a way that is quite astonishing indeed.

Mara and Blanchett are transcendent in their roles, completely selling their struggles and their growing love for each other. It's hard for me to tell which actress is better because a. they both give two of the greatest performances I've ever seen and b. Blanchett definitely has the bulk of the more visibly emotional scenes. As great as the screenplay is, Haynes knows when to simply let the visuals (and the striking faces of the leads) carry the film, and they do an absolutely stunning job, thanks in large part to Lachman's stunning cinematography. Burwell's score is similarly vital to the film's almost dreamlike, yet always grounded flow.

Perhaps the most shocking part of this film to me that instead of being absolutely heartbreaking (though there were more than a few moments that I felt strong emotions), the film was exhilarating to me. It represents the triumph and lifeblood of cinema, a shining example of how to truly make a film. It proves that a film does not need to be showy or unnecessarily complex, but simply nuanced, heartfelt, passionate, and masterfully made by all involved to be a transcendent work of art.

Two addenums: this film contains perhaps the greatest use of handheld that I've seen and for sure the greatest sex scene I've seen.

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