Because that’s the way the American media works, you probably know Blue Is the Warmest Color as “that movie with the seven-minute (or “10-minute” or “20-minute,” depending on how hyperbolic the report) lesbian sex scene.” That unnecessary focus on the prurient is really the only thing that’s wrong with this epic-scale story.
Co-writer/director Abdellatif Kechiche—adapting a graphic novel by Julie Maroh—follows a French girl named Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), beginning when she’s a junior in high school. She’s surprised and confused to find herself attracted to girls, and when she meets an older artist named Emma (Léa Seydoux), they begin a relationship that spans several complicated years.
We’ve seen plenty of coming-out-of-age films in recent years, and in some ways, Kechiche follows in familiar footsteps. It’s what Blue does after that point that gives it a special emotional kick, tracking the arc not just of a relationship, but of a young woman who’s still in the process of discovering herself as she begins this intense, complicated love affair. Seydoux is quite good in her own right, but Exarchopoulos delivers a remarkable performance, from the darting eyes of her uncertainty and curiosity to the body language in various scenes of Adèle dancing that hint at her level of comfort in any situation.
And yes, there are extended, graphic sex scenes between Adèle and Emma—extended and graphic enough that plenty of viewers could be made plenty uncomfortable. While the gradual shift in the way those scenes play out becomes part of tracking the central relationship, making them quite so long feels like a miscalculation, virtually guaranteeing that people might get distracted from Adèle’s emotional evolution. As difficult as it may be to ignore who she is in the sheets, there’s so much more fascinating material involving who she is in the streets.
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR
Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux