The French coming-of-age drama Blue is the Warmest Colour has been making headlines, but not for the right reasons. The story involves two young women who fall in love. Like any movie about a realistic romance, there are sex scenes, which have become all that news articles and the PTC have been able to talk about. It’s a huge disservice to a movie that deserves to be talked about because of its quality, not because of its content.
Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) is a high-school girl trying her best to be happy in a heterosexual relationship and feeling like some part of her is broken. Then one day, while crossing the street, she spots Emma (Léa Seydoux), a slightly older girl with vibrant blue hair, and Adèle’s world opens. It’s a story that has been told similarly before, but never like this.
In France, the film was called The Life of Adèle: Chapters 1 & 2, and the movie indeed feels like two distinct halves. The first half, as Adèle and Emma fall in love and build a relationship together, is wonderful and hypnotic. The second half, as jealousies and time chip away at their love, feels more forced. The first two-thirds of the movie fly by, but after one particularly convoluted argument in the second half, the movie loses its momentum and never quite gets it back.
The sex scenes in the movie are graphic enough to have garnered an NC-17 from the MPAA and a hard R from the Ontario Film Board, but they serve a valuable purpose to the story and make up a rather small percentage of the three-hour running time.
The real showcase of the movie is its acting. Both Exarchopoulos and Seydoux are superb, creating a relationship that rarely feels anything but real. The extremes they went to not just physically but emotionally are the stuff of awards, and it’s not hard to see why they each received one at Cannes earlier this year.
Blue is the Warmest Colour is a powerful modern romance with excellent performances and a new story to tell. If the second half had only been as strong as the first, it also would have been one of the best movies of the year.