Said early on in the film by a random club goer to the main character, ‘love knows no genders.’ It also knows no language either as “Blue is the Warmest Color” is a beautiful love story told via nontraditional circumstances for American audiences – in French and focusing on a lesbian couple. While “Blue” does speak to the times we live in with its focus on Adele and Emma’s relationship, it is first and foremost a touching story of personal discovery and first love, featuring two stellar performances.
Winner of the Palme d’Or at this years Cannes Films Festival, “Blue is the Warmest Color” focuses on Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos). The film tracks her sexual awakening thanks to the help of Emma (Lea Seydoux) and their relationship over the span of a few years. Though Adele loses her way toward the end of the film when her and Emma’s relationship ends.
When it won at Cannes, for the first time in the festival’s history the two lead actresses were recognized along with the director. Rightly so. Exarchopoulos and Seydoux are both mesmerizing. They are fully committed to their portrayals and play perfectly off each other. Exarchopoulos, especially though, is able to carry the weight of the film on her shoulders. Had her performance failed, the entire enterprise would have crumbled, but instead she proved to be the wind in the sails and helped guide the film to its highest possible level.
All of this is not to limit writer/director Abdellatif Kechiche’s impact. He found a way to help bring these performances out of his actresses, as well as effectively frame it for the audience without ever being heavy-handed or deliberate. He knew it was a great story by just showing Adele and Emma’s relationship. No need for extravagant plot twists or a dramatic reconciliation – an honest portrayal of love and relationships like this is more than enough for satisfying filmmaking.
Now, lets talk about the elephant in the room. Yes, there is an extended scene of Adele and Emma having sex and it doesn’t hold anything back in its depiction. Out of context it may seem undeserved and unnecessary, but they make it fit perfectly into the story and characters. Adele had a boyfriend at the start of the movie, but she never felt fulfilled by him, so when she and Emma have sex for the first time, the scene shows that Adele has found that fulfillment as well as discovered more about herself.
Does that scene run a little long? Possibly, especially in a movie that runs three hours. However, there is nothing that fills those three hours that feels extraneous. Each scene flows smoothly to the next and offers something new about Adele and the journey she is going through.
“Blue is the Warmest Color” will earn instant comparisons to “Brokeback Mountain” simply on the fact that its two leads are a lesbian couple. But for anyone who has seen either of those movies, especially “Blue,” that is one facet of a rich and fully developed story. Outside of a couple of scenes early on, Adele and Emma’s sexual orientation is essentially a non-factor. It is a positive step for movies to take and definitely reflects the change that has taken place in our global society that a film like “Blue is the Warmest Color” has been made and already achieved such clearly deserved success.