Blue is the Warmest Color Review

Posted: January 17, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

blue-is-the-warmest-color-posterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Though it hasn’t been popping up much on the awards circuit, Blue is the Warmest Color has been one of the most widely praised films of 2013. The critics who have seen it have mostly showered it with praise, it ranks highly on several end of the year lists, and the film won the prestigious Palm D’or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. What’s even more surprising is how relatively unknown the two lead actresses were before the film and while director Abdellatif Kechiche does have some other credits under his belt, he hadn’t really been seen as a major talent until now. Now, with the time for my own year-end honours rapidly approaching, I too have seen the film and can join the discussion.

The film follows a girl named Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), who at the film’s start is a teenager attending high school. Her life seems pretty typical, but it’s clear she feels somewhat alienated and empty. This largely stems from the fact that she doesn’t seem to have any real interest in boys like her friends do. Still, she attempts dating a boy and while they do experiment together, she ultimately feels no fulfillment. Eventually she begins to understand she is a lesbian and while at a club meets Emma (Léa Seydoux), an older woman who she forms a bond with. The two start a friendship which quickly blossoms into a relationship, which will become the subject of the film going forward.

Much of the attention the film has garnered has been placed on the performances from the lead actresses. The praise is well-deserved because both are fantastic here. In fact the film’s greatest pleasure comes from watching these characters grow and change over the course of the story. Adèle Exarchopoulos perfectly captures the sense of confusion her character is experiencing and makes the viewer understand why her character acts as she does. The last point is especially important since there are times where Adèle does some questionable and unlikable things. Léa Seydoux is equally good as Adèle’s lover, Emma. She’s more confident than Adèle, there’s a sublte insecurity to her as well that Seydoux portrays nicely. Both actresses play off each other very well and both grow a lot, particularly Adèle who goes through quite a lot. What’s interesting is that while these characters do change a lot, they aren’t the grandiose changes movies often show. Instead, the change and grow in smaller ways that feel authentic.

Authenticity is clearly a goal Abdellatif Kechiche had in mind when making the film. The camera has a gritty, handheld look with much of it shot in close up. It really does feel like a document of real life. While at times the frequent close-ups can be frustrating, they ultimately do serve a purpose and work within the context of the film. Kechiche also effectively builds tension in small ways and throughout the film there are a lot of little moments he captures very well. I also give he and co-writer Ghalia Lacroix credit for giving the story a real sense of weight as well as for avoiding obvious clichés.

While Blue is the Warmest Color has received a lot of praise, there’s also been a lot of controversy surrounding the graphic sex scenes. Personally, I wasn’t offended by them. The film is meant to be a detailed chronicle of Adèle and Emma’s romance so it makes sense that their sex lives be explored. The problem is not in the content, it’s in the duration. The sex scenes, and there are many, go on way longer than they need to. This criticism isn’t limited to the sex scenes either, in fact the film’s most glaring flaw is that it’s simply way too long. There are several scenes where the point is made earlier on, but they just keep going. It’s a shame too because in the process, a story which is pretty interesting becomes less so by stretching it out as much as they have. It’s also bizarre that for a film with such a runtime, there are points where it feels rushed. There are times where the film would jump through time and I would have liked to see what happens in these intervals play out. I’m not against films which run three hours and I’m not even saying this one should have been shorter, but I do think the runtime should have been more evenly distributed.

So overall, I did really like Blue is the Warmest Color. It’s extremely well-acted, mostly well-made, and I understand why the film has inspired the passion it has. It’s a film that really succeeds at everything it’s trying to do. At the same time, the film runs so unnecessarily long that it eventually tried my patience and made the story seem less interesting. Still, the flaws are not enough to ruin what is other ways an interesting piece of filmmaking. This is a very good movie with real emotion, and if nothing else is worth seeing for the performances.

B+

Comments
  1. CMrok93 says:

    One of the sweetest, most emotional romance flicks of the year, that also just so happens to involve two women. Good review Dan.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s