Dalton’s review published on Letterboxd:
I’m not sure how to begin to describe the brilliance and perfection that is Carol. This film is an impeccably crafted love story, from the first frame to the last. From the direction to the score to the camerawork to the acting, every single piece of this film is immaculate. Director Todd Haynes is the real star of this film, creating a piece that it at once impressively precise and supremely emotional. This is a story built on snapshot moments—facial expressions and body movements feel like a coded language between Therese (Rooney Mara) and Carol (Cate Blanchett). The tiniest signs of affection feel explosive; fleeting glances speak louder than words. The film opens with Carol and Therese eating dinner at a swanky restaurant; when we circle back to this moment in the third act, we have greater context and see this moment in a completely new light. Here Haynes is demonstrating the art of perspective in human connection while subtly dismantling the exotification of same-sex relationships in our society. What seems lascivious on the surface actually contains a staggering amount of emotional weight—this relationship is a complex living entity, not to be simplified.
The setting of 1950s Manhattan is both gorgeous and suffocating. The gleaming taxicabs and warm, glowing home interiors mask an air of aggressive conformity. Therese is a timid young woman who works in a department store. Just days before Christmas, she meets Carol, a woman of high society who exudes a cool opulence. Completely banal and simple on the surface, their first interaction feels somehow naughty and forbidden. They share a fiery chemistry aching to be spoken into words. Alas, it cannot be, and the relationship continues tentatively, with Carol finding an excuse to invite Therese to lunch. Therese is timid and wide-eyed, while Carol is more assured and kittenish. Their relationship develops into the most beautiful and honest connection; there is an unspoken feeling that this is unlike anything either woman has ever felt before.
Rooney Mara is fantastic in this role. She embodies a gentle spirit, a quiet insecurity that drives her character arc. Blanchett has never been better—she glides across the screen with her characteristic elegance and creates a heartbreaking character. Todd Haynes, simply put, gives the best direction of the year. No film of 2015 has been orchestrated so stunningly, and with such clear purpose and confidence. There is a consistent use of glass obstructing our full vision of the characters; it conjures up the concept of perspective, and the viewpoint we have into their secret relationship. Despite the overbearing prejudice of this world, it feels oddly warm, washed over with a haze of tenderness. We are viewing the world through the prism of their passion and dizzying love. All in all, Carol offers up the best of cinema—each component fits perfectly together to complete a rich tapestry of emotion that left me in awe.