On the one hand, Blue is the Warmest Colour has been hyped to dizzying heights. It made history at the Cannes film festival by having the Palme d’Or awarded not only to the director Abdellatif Kechiche, but also to its two leading actresses Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos. On the other hand this is an extremely long subtitled French film with notorious sex scenes, and at first glance may not seem like everyone’s cup of tea. I felt like it could go either way, but I went in praying that the buzz surrounding this film hadn’t given people rose tinted glasses where it was concerned. Turns out it hadn’t, clear as day, this film really is something special.
Clearly an advocate of the sentiment ‘actions speak louder than words’; Kechiche has created a very physical film. We watch Adele come of age through scenes of dancing, painting and sex rather than conversations. The film focusses on the moments in Adele’s life which have had most impact, so it is about the exciting first meetings and turbulent break-ups, a raw portrayal of the best and worst parts of a relationship. The film is relatable to all those who have crossed the barrier from teenager to young adult as it encompasses events that everyone will recognise; from those first awkward fumbling relationships, to the eye opening intellectual discoveries of Sartre and art. It is a beautiful depiction of growing up and trying to find out who you are.
So much of this comes down to the incredible performances of the two main girls in this film. Lea Seydoux is wonderful as Emma, the older and experienced art student who enters Adele’s life only to turn it upside down. But this film belongs to Adele Exarchopoulos; the twenty year old who plays her namesake Adele is quite simply breathtaking. Growing in front of our eyes by nearly ten years, she is unrecognisable by the end, and you really do see a woman as opposed to the teenager she started as. The film is an incredibly demanding and glaring depiction of the two actresses, and they had to completely bare themselves and their bodies in a vulnerable way to truly represent the stark realities of the transition into womanhood. All the realisms of life were uncensored and this justified the length of the film as it accurately depicted the arduous transition that is ‘coming of age’.
In keeping with the tradition of an arty French film, Blue is the Warmest Colour sits a few minutes over the three hour mark and you have to stick with it solidly in order for it to have its full effect. But this is all part of the film, the length of it means that by the end you have taken in so much of this girls life you feel emotionally drained. It is powerful, not because it smacks you in the face with dramatic sequences, but because you slowly soak up the innermost feelings of these women. This is not a film that you can leave behind in the cinema. The emotional impact of Blue is the Warmest Colour cannot be underestimated; something this long and this heartfelt cannot simply wash over you. It very slowly seeps in until you can feel the mood of it crawling on your skin. It is life laid bare in front of you. It may not have an orthodox story with a clear beginning middle and end, but it is pure emotional weight, and it is certainly a weight that lingers.