MRR Review: "Blue Is the Warmest Color"

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Adele's life is changed when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire, to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. In front of others, Adele grows, seeks herself, loses herself, finds herself.
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MRR Review: "Blue Is the Warmest Color"

Rating: NC-17
Length: 179 minutes
Release Date: December 6, 2013
Directed by: Abdellatif Kechiche
Genre: Drama and Romance

"Blue Is the Warmest Color" is an ambitious love story set in modern-day France. Starring Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos, and Salim Kechiouche, the movie follows the story of a young woman named Adèle as she discovers a first love with a girl named Emma. With its considerable length and detailed scenes, the movie is an immersive, intense experience.

The story opens on Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a young French high-school student. Adèle is beautiful and carefree but finds that she is not satisfied with dating her male classmates. Near the beginning of the film, Adèle dates a young man in her class, but she ends the relationship soon after. Adrift and confused, Adèle is not certain why she doesn't fit in with other people her age.

Not long after, Adèle spots Emma (Léa Seydoux), a mysterious girl with bright blue hair. Fascinated, she develops an interest that borders on obsession and begins to think that she might be attracted to the young woman. When they finally meet, the two discover a deep, spiritual connection that begins as a true friendship. As they get to know each other, the two girls fall deeply in love. As often happens, however, life gets in the way, and the fires of first love die out and fade into an uncomfortable friendship.

The beauty of "Blue Is the Warmest Color" is in the small, personal moments that define a relationship and a life, and at nearly three hours long, the movie has no shortage of details. Director Abdellatif Kechiche indulges himself fully in every scene of the movie, giving viewers a unique glimpse into the world of Adèle and Emma. From the girls' very first conversations, viewers have the chance to see every change in facial expression and the smallest adjustments in posture. As a result, it is easy to become invested in the movie from the start. As the relationship progresses, Kechiche continues to offer full access to the raw emotion of the lead characters.

Exarchopoulos and Seydoux are the shining lights of the film, so much so that the supporting cast is almost unnecessary. Both actresses embody their roles so fully that it is impossible to tell where the performer ends and the character begins. Throughout the movie, each woman demonstrates remarkable emotional depth, expressing the pain and joy of love with almost painful honesty.

Both Exarchopoulos and Seydoux show the dramatic transformations of their characters, a storyline that underlies the whole movie and gives it a strong foundation. At no point in the film does either performance feel like acting—rather, audience members feel like they are watching actual people living their lives. Though the subject matter of the story may be controversial to some viewers, the actresses bring out the feelings that are common to every love story. Their considerable skill makes the story completely believable and, more importantly, relatable.

Throughout "Blue Is the Warmest Color," Kechiche goes to great pains to establish the intense attraction between Adèle and Emma. From the longing initial glances to the later encounters, the movie explores their physical relationship in great detail. These scenes make the movie unsuitable for young viewers but go a long way in creating the strong bond between the characters.

As the movie progresses, Adèle and Emma find their relationship changing into something more mature and domestic. Eventually, as with many first loves, it fades into a mere memory. Kechiche handles the time shifts with aplomb so that they feel natural rather than abrupt. After a couple of scenes involving a particularly intense fight and an awkward family dinner, viewers are left feeling like the characters do: exhausted and emotionally worn out. The feeling doesn't last long, however, and the overall tone of the movie is hopeful. It exhibits a strong belief in the enduring and transformative power of love—even a love that does not last.

For viewers, "Blue Is the Warmest Color" is a three-hour roller-coaster ride of emotion. True to the film's name, the color blue is a running theme that comes close to overuse. Despite that, the movie is beautiful, with luxurious close-ups and dramatic, sweeping long shots. The artful mixture results in a product that is both realistic and dreamlike, a phenomenon that mirrors the way Emma and Adèle experience their first true love. It shifts effortlessly between the secret, shared world of the two women and the reality of the larger world around them.

"Blue Is the Warmest Color" is not intended for children or young audiences. For older viewers who are seeking a more adventurous film experience, however, it is sure to be a challenging and entertaining moviegoing experience.

Rating: 4 out of 5