Quite a few LGBTQ movies have been made in the past, some have completely failed to do their job, while there have been those movies that have hit the mark, complete with stunning performances and a gripping story. Blue is the Warmest Colour falls into the second category of films.
Abdellatif Kechiche’s French coming-of-age romantic drama is heartbreaking and breathtaking in parts. It is also visually stunning, but what really elevates the movie are the performances and the direction. At the face of it, it’s a simple story of finding yourself and exploring the idea of love. But as the film progresses, you realise that it’s an intense portrayal of what it feels like to be intoxicated by a person, to be drawn in by everything a single human being does or doesn’t.
Remember the scene when Adele (played by the talented Adele Exarchopoulos) sees Emma (portrayed by Lea Seydoux) for the first time? Adele sees Emma across the road, she feels conscious, aware of her whole body, the camera closes in on her face and we see that her cheeks are flushed, she darts her eyes from one thing to another only to steal another glance at Emma. Adele feels the attraction growing, and what’s even more exciting for us as viewers is that her instant attraction to the blue-haired woman is reciprocated. Suddenly Adele is not the only one staring. A great scene, uplifted by the wonderful Exarchopoulos.
Later, when Adele, a schoolgirl, goes into a gay bar hoping to bump into Emma, you know she’s there because she is pulled by her desire for Emma. But when Adele finally meets Emma in the pub, she says, she came into the bar by chance, to which Emma responds with a cryptic, “No such thing as chance”. And indeed, most of the film isn’t a coincidence. Blue is for peace, for warmth, but also for melancholia. Blue is the colour of Emma’s hair, Blue is in the title of the film. Blue is the definition of the relationship Emma and Adele share with each other. Their love is passionate, toxic, but it also keeps them sane.
In a video of The New York Times, called Anatomy of a scene, director Kechiche explains a pivotal moment of the film. The scene where Adele converses with Beatrice about her sexuality. Nothing is stated explicitly, Adele doesn’t explain what she feels about women, Beatrice, on the other hand, is almost brash as she goes about complimenting girls, including Adele. She (Beatrice) remarks upon girls’ bodies in an almost crude manner while Adele smokes and smiles through it all, neither denying her attraction to her sex nor affirming it.
Nevertheless, it’s an important scene as Kechiche says it’s the moment when the cigarette is lit that Adele begins to come to terms with her sexuality. Another easter egg is the blue nail paint and blue rings of Beatrice.
The movie’s French name is La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2, which loosely translates to The Life of Adele–Chapters 1 and 2. The film is based on a graphic novel written by Julie Maroh. The main plot revolves around Adele, and the film tracks her life from the time in her high school to when she finally becomes a teacher. While she’s still in school, she meets the blue-haired Emma, and they embark upon a relationship that becomes strained over the years.
Emma is an aspiring painter, she loves recklessly, but she also has the tendency to detach herself from her surrounding when she becomes focused on her art. Adele, during those times, is left alone and helpless. So, one day she cheats. After Adele confesses about her betrayal, Emma throws her out of life in a violent fashion, leaving Adele shattered and homeless.
Often when writers and directors write about same-sex romance, they overdo it, with their sincerity and with their attempts to be faithful to the emotion. But Blue is the Warmest Colour feels real, because, in its portrayal of Adele and Emma, nothing seems awkward. You feel what the characters feel — their love, desires, fear. All of it rings true. That’s a rarity. It doesn’t seem to try hard, ‘seem’ being the operative word here.
After the film won the acclaim it did, the actors of the movie gave interviews about unpleasant on-set experiences, questions were also raised about the sex scenes of the movie, with even writer Julie Maroh calling it out as almost pornographic. But that does not (and should not) take away points from the film for presenting the world with an ambitious tale of romance.