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Stars: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson

Director: Todd Haynes

Beautifully shot and impeccably performed, this is nonetheless an overly protracted look at a lesbian love match in which it seems to take forever for the female protagonists to actually get to it.

It's 1951 and the title character (Blanchett, oozing wealth) is in a toy department looking for a Christmas present for her five-year-old daughter. She's served by the waiflike Therese (Mara) who is having trouble with her sexuality and finds himself drawn like a magnet to the charismatic Carol, who has already had another affair with a woman (Paulson) five years previously, and is in the throes of divorce from husband Harge (a good, blustering portrayal by Chandler), who still loves her.

Mara, at times looking the spit of Audrey Hepburn as she appeared in Funny Face, agrees to lunches and dinners with her putative lover, whose lips suppurate sex appeal. Fleeing from her husband's threat to take her child away, Carol heads west with Therese in tow, at first sleeping in separate rooms, but eventually making passionate love, only for...well, let's not spring the film's only slight surprise.

The performances, gently sensual, really couldn't be bettered, but director Haynes has major problems with pacing, dodgy plot contrivances and unnecessary scenes, all of which extend the film beyond its natural length, and make this a lesser achievement than his previous film, the sublime Far from Heaven.

David Quinlan

USA 2015. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Technicolor.
118 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 23 Nov 2015