Lesbianism needn’t be kink-driven (The Duke of Burgundy) or fraught with doubt (Sand Dollars). Sometimes it’s as simple and absolute as the first, magical look you trade with someone that, in an instant, explains everything. In Carol, the eponymous New York socialite (Blanchett) is probably not expecting her 1950s housewife existence to change when she goes Christmas shopping and meets wide-eyed counter girl Therese (Mara). But even before they can come up with the vocabulary to describe it, a spark develops into a bond that requires them to risk their reputations, their families, their hearts. What’s truly remarkable about Haynes’ film is how, via a perfect alignment of sensitive writing, meticulous direction, powerhouse performances and exquisite design, the elusive, intoxicating sense of being in love is captured. Homosexual or not, stepping into the faraway life of two ordinary people finally finding fulfilment reminds you it’s that tingle of happiness coupled with the ache of anticipation that makes us all human. And for movies like this – expertly crafted, beautifully transportive hours of make-believe – we can be nothing but thankful.
Carol | Directed by Todd Haynes (UK, USA 2015) with Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara. Opens in NYC January 21