Film review: Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)

Lea Seydoux Adele Exarchopoulos

Genre: Drama/Romance

Cast: Adèle Exarchopoulos (Adèle), Léa Seydoux (Emma)

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche

We believe Adèle’s emotions because they are spoken through her eyes. She may not say much, and she may keep a lot to herself, but her big hazel eyes are as expressive as the painterly strokes in a Monet canvas. Adèle is a young teenager full of life and creativity. She enjoys a good book and she believes in love, not necessarily in the cute tale of the couple that lives happily ever after, but in the passionate, mad, irrational and uncontrollable kind of love that has led to wars, murders and impressive heroics throughout human history.

As faith would have it, Adèle meets Emma, and so begins a story of love at first sight, where two strangers (two women in case you are wondering) share an inexplicable bond that holds them together. If you have ever had such a meeting of body and mind, then you know that it is unforgettable and rare, and that after it happens, it may either leave you destroyed and in tears, or happy and smiling uncontrollably, unable to think of anything else. All of these feelings compound when it is a story of first love too. For Adèle, who is only a junior in high school, Emma is the first person she has fallen for, and for that reason alone, it will be the relationship she will inevitably use to measure the rest of the relationships she ever has.

Blue is the Warmest Color takes its time to set up the story of Adele and Emma though. For the first 30 to 40 minutes, we get to know Adèle, the high school girl with a passion for books, surrounded by a bunch of loud-mouthed friends whose only goal is to set her up with a boyfriend. Due to peer pressure and her own curiosity she ends up giving in. She exchanges a few words on the bus with a guy from school, they laugh and they have a nice enough conversation, which leads to a second date. Even though she tries to feel something deeper, Adèle can’t seem to shake off the sense that she is pretending and not really enjoying herself all that much. Instead, she thinks of a girl with bright blue hair that she peeked at as she crossed a Parisian street. It is those two or three seconds that remain in her head instead of the long evening she spent with a young handsome man.

Blue is the Warmest Color 3

Blue is the Warmest Color spends a considerable amount of time obsessing about details. The camera follows Adèle almost zealously. It remains in front of her, rarely shying away, concentrated and focused on her every look and mannerism. The young actress of the same name does a stupendous job to not only demand and hold our attention, but to present her feelings so naturally and eloquently without saying much in the way of words. Much like Emma draws and paints and sketches her muse, capturing her every line and every feature, director Abdellatif Kechiche does the same in an attempt to get at what is underneath such a naturally beautiful façade.

Despite its disinterest with Hollywoodesque romantic conventions, Blue is the Warmest Color is occasionally self-aware of its own plot destiny, dropping hints that may prepare viewers for what is to come. However, the times that it does fall for convention, it does so with such subtlety that it does not appear obvious until it is analyzed in retrospect.

For most its running time, Blue is the Warmest Color remains engaging and intriguing, mixing moments of youthful energy with quieter ones. There are innocent parties full of dance music, where we watch Adèle singing and dancing without a care in the world, still the little girl who lives with her parents. At other moments, there is also the sexually active Adèle who explores her passions and her desires without shame. While the film is more about first love than anything else, it is also interested in the idea of growing up, and transitioning from a world where girls secretly talk about boys at lunch time, to one where they sleep with them and explore their sexual desires.

Eventually, Blue is the Warmest Color reveals all that it has to reveal, showing that this is a relationship that does not hold a secret mystery or peculiarity aside from being one between two women. We learn that no matter how powerful the love may be between these two, relationships always end up facing similar difficulties, and that it is up to the maturity, the loyalty and the willingness of each person to make it work. Like the film, a love story is only as good as it lasts.


Blue is the Warmest Color


2 thoughts on “Film review: Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)

  1. Great review, Niels. It took me a while to get to this film, but now I would firmly place it in my top three of last year. A lot of that goes down to Adèle, who delivered one of the best performances I have ever seen. It’s a shame there was so much controversy between the two stars and the director afterward, because they really created something special.

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