Blue is the Warmest Colour is one of the sweetest first love films you’ll see. Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) is just at the age where she’s beginning to bloom into a beauty, all pudgy cheeks, bee-stung lips and tousled hair, in true French fashion. She’s dating boys, but a chance encounter with a blue-haired stranger in a local square stays with her. Her first nervous trip to a gay bar throws up another encounter with the same girl, Emma (Lea Seydoux) and they begin a passionate affair.
The two come from contrasting backgrounds, Emma is older and an art student with a family who eat oysters (yes I know) and welcome their daughter’s partner like an old friend. Adele’s family are a bit rougher round the edges, and she’s not exactly open with them about her new acquaintance and what they are getting up to after lights out. Indeed what they do get up to (mainly with the lights on) has been much discussed – there are a couple of quite explicit sex scenes, which don’t feel at all gratuitous in the context of the girls’ relationship and are only really notable for being between two girls. They’re not the sort of thing you might feel comfortable watching with granny, mind you.
Exarchopoulos is mostly filmed in unforgiving close-up, and indeed the romance is often charted through the amount of snot pouring from her nose. The close-ups give the film a very intimate feel, you’re right in there with Adele’s emotions and you experience her heartbreak entirely – by the end of the film you feel as exhausted as she does. It’s a wonderfully honest performance from both girls, but particularly Exarchopoulos. It says a lot for Abdellatif Kechiche’s exquisite direction that it doesn’t feel like a three-hour film, the story – though simple – keeps you there, up close and personal with Adele and her runny nose.
Blue is the Warmest Colour is beautiful, elegiac and touching, both lead performances are perfectly nuanced – and though we know now that Kechiche might have pushed the girls a little to far, what he got from them is surely worth the pain.