Aside from the many discussions you may have read on the treatment of the lead actresses on this movie, you will undoubtedly have run into stories regarding the graphic sex scenes that appear in Blue Is The Warmest Colour. Actresses Léa Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos going at it hammer and tongs between the sheets is apparently the most important thing you should know about this film according to major press outlets. Except that, in a three hour film, the sex accounts for seven minutes of screen time. So why isn’t anyone talking about the merits of the rest of this excellent film?
It’s almost understandable when you consider that, outside of a big release once or twice a year; French cinema is not the most accessible type entertainment. Since the general public will have only Amelie, MicMacs or maybe Potiche to use as recent references, Blue will come as a shock to the system.
The coming-of-age and coming out story of teenager Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) is, at times, intense, subtle, raw, light and relatable – sometimes all at once. After having a quick, mostly physical relationship with a boy from school, Adele catches sight of a girl with blue hair and something inside of her changes. Suddenly, Adele must face a realisation that shocks her, changes her world, her friend’s perception of her and everything that is important to her. The scene in which Adele accepts the frightening truth that she could be gay is one without dialogue; her sitting alone in her bed with a tear-stained face speaks volumes.
Encountering the blue-haired girl, Emma (Léa Seydoux) at a lesbian bar she has snuck away to, Adele strikes up a friendship with her that soon turns to romance. It’s a sweet romance, full of gentle kisses, hand-holding, conversations, sex, meeting the parents and everything else a couple experiences. You might think that this all would go without saying but these things aren’t a given when it comes to lesbian storylines – you’re lucky if you see more than two or three kisses in other Sapphic stories.
The film moves through to Adele’s early twenties and showcases the differences between the early stages of love and what happens after a few years of living together. Adele develops into a more assured adult and Emma slowly begins to turn her attention to her flourishing career, creating cracks between the two. Again, realistic life lessons and mistakes that happen between couples that rarely get screen time in lesbian movies. While writers will discuss at length the validity of the sex scenes and their realism, there has to at least be appreciation for the decent depiction of a genuine relationship between two women.
The lack of a score highlights the intense emotions that are swirling around in Adele’s head as she tries to get on with her life while a storm rages inside of her. It’s a testament to Exarchopoulos as she steals every scene, growing more assured as the story progresses and that, without the safety net of a score to build emotion, her face can flip a scene on its head with the blink of an eye.
Seydoux is equally skilled, although given less to explore, making Emma an enigmatic figure that almost anyone could imagine falling in love with. She’s passionate, sensitive and her role in Adele’s life becomes complicated the further into Adele’s story we get.
If you’re thinking that you couldn’t handle a three hour French movie about lesbians then not only are you missing the point of cinema altogether but, ultimately, you’ll miss out on intense, genuine and passionate filmmaking. Make the extra effort to see Blue Is The Warmest Colour and you’ll come out having been through an emotional car crash but ultimately better for it.