It is rare that a film can capture the raw reality of being human, with it’s messiness, awkwardness, and powerful emotion; particularly, cinema rarely portrays the intensity and passion of intimate relationships with anything but glossy hyper-romance. Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013) succeeds on both these fronts, resulting in a film that erases it’s artifice as it constructs a love story that feels incredibly realistic.
The film follows Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) as she moves from youth to womanhood, exploring herself and her sexuality along the way. Much of her self discovery comes from her intense relationship with Emma (Léa Seydoux), who teaches her about philosophy, art, and strawberry milk. They meet at an exploratory moment in Adèle’s life, but their passion for each other moves beyond curiosity and into love and sexual fulfillment. But all relationships have problems, and as they arise between Emma and Adèle, the results are moving, incredibly real, and extraordinarily difficult to watch.
Adèle Exarchopoulos is absolutely magnificent in her role; never have I seen a character so believable and laid so completely bare (in more ways than one) in front of a camera. She is messy yet mysterious, and adorable even in her less appealing moments. Léa Seydoux likewise shines, managing to pull off that unattainable beauty central to Adèle’s interest, yet portrays a humanness that is different though equal to her lovers. The two share a passion that you can feel as you watch the film, whether they are eating lunch in the park, lying in bed, or having that infamous controversial sex scene(s) that everyone wants to watch.
Kechiche does a fine job constructing real people in both Emma and Adèle, which is incredibly refreshing, and makes the film deliciously watchable in spite of its minimal plot and astounding length (179 minutes!). The love story he weaves is moving, believable, and will stay with you for some time after viewing. The controversial sex scenes are in fact just as real as the romance, and in my opinion, far less sexualized than the typical lesbian love we see in other films, yet far more raw and intimate. That being said, it is obvious this scene was directed by a straight male; it lingers just a touch too long, and I can’t help but detect the male gaze at work here. However, he indeed does justice to the love between the two characters, as well as their sexual desire for each other, so that is a mere side note. The way he focuses the camera closely on Adèle’s parted mouth as she sleeps, and discusses her voracious appetite, demonstrates a true respect for her character as opposed to her body. This is especially visible when he films her crying; she is portrayed without flattery, but with honestly; wet and messy and covered in snot, the emotion is incredible and allows the audience to connect with her as though she were a friend, or a mirror image of ourselves at our most painful moments.
If you want to see a love story that isn’t glamorized to the point of disbelief, and performances that will leave you moved and teary-eyed, then I highly recommend Blue is the Warmest Color (2013). If the NC-17 rating doesn’t make you the least bit curious, I don’t know what will.