Blue is the Warmest Color follows the story of Adèle, a young French girl on the path of personal growth and discovery. Adèle is typical in the ways that high school students are all typical. She gets good grades, has a clique of friends that likes to party and talk about boys, and enjoys the warmth of a caring and supportive family. Everything seems to be in the right place for Adèle, but for reasons unknown, she is unfulfilled. Something is unquiet in her world and she feels the effect of its absence, even if she can’t define it. It’s everywhere, from her idyllic home life to her relationships with her friends to her relationship with one of the boys in her school. Something is just missing. Enter Emma. Emma is a care free art school student, a few years older than Adèle. Emma meets Adèle for the first time at a gay bar on a night when Adèle agrees to go out with one of her friends after a trying day. The chemistry between the two is undeniable and they are thrust into a whirlwind romance. Emma and Adèle fall madly in love with each other and their story unfolds over time. They move in with each other. Adèle achieves her dream of becoming a teacher while Emma develops and gains success as an artist. As Emma becomes more and more successful, she is enveloped by her profession, resulting in Adèle becoming lonely and detached. Seeking solace in the arms of one of her co-workers, Adèle is caught by Emma and their relationship perishes, leaving her to survive beyond its dissolution as best she can.
To call this movie a “coming of age” vehicle wouldn’t be wrong, but in the end, it also does no justice to an epic tale of star-crossed love and human emotion. Taking inspiration from Julie Maroh’s graphic novel Le Bleu Est Un Coleur Chaud, Blue Is The Warmest Color cuts to the center of a love story with an honesty that speaks in a clear and bold voice. The two lead characters of Adèle and Emma are well played by Adèle Exarchopolous and Léa Seydoux respectively; giving a sincere clarity and tenderness to the roles of two people in a tragic love tale. Director Abdellatif Kechiche manages to capture the subtle joy of first love in his two leads without making it seem trite and contrived, but he does manage to make it vulgar. The elephant in the room with this particular movie is the visceral and graphic content of non-simulated sexuality between the two lead characters, depicted without censor or apology. Taken as a part of the whole, it’s fair to state its necessity in the story, adding an element of transparency to the traditional veil of movie making. In its execution, however, its severity belies its artistic intent. It’s a drawn out lesbian sex scene told through a voyeuristic lens; a simple pornography dressed in the trappings of lofty expressionism, still catering to a traditional male archetype of what lesbian sex must be like. Ultimately, this takes away from the narrative in a way that cheapens the experience overall.
In a two hour and fifty nine minute runtime, it’s difficult to consider that there are parts of the story that feel left out, but, unfortunately, the story does tend to feel incomplete. The story unfolds episodically, jumping from portion to portion of the relationship between Adèle and Emma. It is effective in showing the passing of time, but it begs more to be told of the characters and their situations that lead to the motion of the story. For example; the story goes from Adele and Emma falling in love, straight to the lying to their parents about the nature of their relationship, to their living together. It skips what would conceivably be the larger issues given the story, such as coming out to family members. Although this may be well tread territory, its absence in a coming of age tale about young lesbians just leaves you feeling like you missed something.
Blue Is The Warmest Color is a moving story of growth and discovery. Well played roles and convincing chemistry make for a compelling love story, but it ultimately suffers from its own gratuitous sexuality and patriarchal slant. Watch it when the kids go to bed and make sure you bring a box of tissues.
Blue is the Warmest Color is now playing in Philly area theaters.