Blue is the Warmest Colour

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It’s rare that you walk away from a romance, and feel something new, something raw. We, as moviegoers, have been trained to accept the same heartwarming clichés, “not-so-surprising” plot twists, the sugar-coated fairy tale ending as a necessary ingredient to the romantic genre. Blue is the Warmest Colour takes this genre, turns it inside out, unravels it, and forces us to reconsider not just the nature of the genre itself, but to wholly reconsider our feelings about love, life and relationships.

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The film centers on Adele (played by Adele Exarchopoulos), a teenage girl living in France whose sexual awakening occurs upon meeting a slightly older, slightly blue-haired, Emma (played by Lea Seydoux). The two exchange glances on the street, which leads to a chance, encounter at a lesbian bar, which then leads to a full blown love affair. At three hours long, the film allows us to see the entirety of their relationship: from meeting the parents, to eventually moving in together, to the day-to-day disasters that make up the fabric of any relationship. While we follow Adele most closely throughout the film, it is their relationship which serves as the focal point of the entire narrative – we watch it pulse, push, and stutter, like a living organism all on its own. Every moment between these two women, whether in bed, eating a breakfast, or simply walking the streets of Paris, serves to build our perception of a love story that is on one hand unique and on the other completely familiar. In this way, the tiniest touches and sparsest conversations between Emma and Adele become fundamental to the suspense of the story, and so we analyze every seemingly small moment between the two. We build stakes which are heavy and weighted with our own fears and anxieties about the impossibility of true happiness, for them or for ourselves.

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A lot has been written about the very explicit sex scenes that accompany the film – and they are, indeed, explicit. One of the more discussed scenes lasts almost 12 minutes and does not shield us from any moment of the intimate, almost animalistic act of Emma and Adele making love. While I would agree that the film is certainly not suitable for young children, or even teenagers (it is currently stamped with an NC17 rating for this very reason), I found these scenes to be necessary elements of this candid portrayal of romance. It would be disingenuous to observe the entirety of a relationship without seeing one of the most fundamental, and universal aspects of intimacy. Sex is important, it always has been and it always will be. While we typically treat sex scenes in films as ellipses; they often suggest what will happen in lieu of showing anything in its entirety, Blue gives us the opportunity to  witness one of the most intimate and purest portrayals of female sexuality. It is raw, primal, exhausting, maybe even pornographic. However, it is above all else, honest. It does not flaunt sexuality for sexuality’s sake, but uses it to help us understand the almost mystical connection between Adele and Emma, and how sexuality is such an essential part of their love, and of ours.

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Lea Seydoux has always been a favorite actress of mine – and she does not disappoint in her role as Emma. She is driven, sexy, and serious, and her appeal leaps off of the screen immediately. However, it is the newcomer Alex Exarchopoulos who truly stood out. She is so emotionally available that she foregoes her own obvious beauty in favor of emotional and  often ugly extremes. When she cries snot covers her mouth and nose, and her eyes widen with insecurity. When she’s happy she throws her hair up in a messy bun which allows for loose locks to cover her face and neck in a way that’s not aesthetically pleasing, but youthful and real. She is the very image of a young girl in love – outwardly secure and sure of herself, but often with a deeply troubling undercurrent of insecurity that manifests itself in the way she walks, talks, and even glances at others in the periphery.

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The final acts of the film are some of the most poignant, and powerful that I have seen in a long time. They frame everything that has come before in a pragmatic, almost matter-of-fact light that is at once tragic and necessary. The film does not end with ease, neither does it offer up any answers to the lingering questions that we, the audience, may have. It does not even fulfill our desire for a typically happy-ending  Instead, it does what is most valuable – it forces us to reflect, to compare, and to react. It is deeply saddening and incredibly frustrating – it is awkward. It is filled with regret as well as hope. It is beautiful and messy. It is unsatisfying and totally justified. It is just like intimacy. It is, just like love.

Written By: Sarah Dunn who is 25 and has been living in New York City for the past 8 years. A graduate of Columbia Film Studies program, she is a film-fanatic, trailer-obsessed lover of movies, and currently works as a post-production supervisor for Treehouse Pictures. She’s been known to comb through entire TV series on Netflix in a day, knows far too much about feminist film theory, and consistently prefers to dump her M&Ms inside her popcorn rather than eat them separately.

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