It’s been quite the year for Blue Is The Warmest Colour, French director Abdellatif Kechiche’s take on Julie Maroh’s novel of the same name. Soon after the film dazzled critics and scooped the highly coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, talk turned sour as a spat erupted between its director and two leads about the supposedly horrible working conditions on set. In truth, none of that matters as much as the film itself. And what’s been achieved here is nothing short of breathtaking, and the honours it should – and likely will – receive are deeply warranted.
15-year-old Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) is a talented high school student in the midst of adulthood. Her clear ambitions about her future as a writer and teacher sadly don’t stretch to her love life, and the fumbles she has with several of the boys from her school leave her somewhat unfulfilled. All that changes, however, when she meets Emma (Léa Seydoux), a self-assured artist, and the two embark upon an intense relationship that’s at first exciting and satisfying, before becoming chaotic as unrealistic expectations and the the ups and downs of life tear them apart.
Split over two chapters and a 179 minute run time, this vivid and captivating drama captures the overwhelming forces of life and first love through Adèle’s desirous eyes over the course of several years. Her thirst for life is powerful from the start, but her options limited by her surroundings and the unsureness she has of herself. It’s only when she meets Emma that she starts to find herself and all that the world has to offer, from art and literature to intense conversation and passionate lovemaking – of which there is a lot, but it’s never voyeuristic.
The film is remarkably honest in its depiction of the highs and lows a relationship – convoluted, uncertain and hurtful, yet imbued with moments of sheer pleasure that all the emotional torture seem worth it – can bring. The way in which Adèle savours – and soon shatters – her new life is accurate of anyone who has their eyes opened wider than they once were. The unflinching approach screenwriters Kechiche and Ghalia Lacroix opt for makes for a film that’s far more striking than some polished, all-will-be-okay-in-the-end Hollywood fad.
Its clutch on the audience and level of believability starts to waver slightly as it slips into the odd theatricality near its end point. Yet the performances are what it hinges on. And, thankfully, they’re spectacular. Exarchopoulos is the films dazzling anchor, and how she reveals thoughts and emotions through her richly emotive facial expressions and body language is nothing short of a miracle. Seydoux is every bit as good as Emma, and Kechiche’s direction is fluid and sumptuous to behold, all of which results in a film that’s overwhelming and sharp in splendour and candour.