In Abdellatif Kechiche’s recently debuted French drama, blue is not only the warmest color, but it is also the most heart–warming one. Its every hue permeates all aspects of the film, most notably in the form of Emma (Léa Seydoux). She is an art student at the Beaux–Arts whose cyan glance declares love at first sight with Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos). Adèle's heartbreakingly raw bildungsroman quickly unfolds when she again encounters her blue–haired admirer at a gay bar, simply by chance.
“Blue is the Warmest Color,” the well–deserved winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes this past summer, explores identity from the perspective of Adèle, a French teenager riddled with sexual insecurity as she grows up in the northern city of present–day Lille. Neither she nor the audience understands her, even though the camera never strays farther than two feet from Adèle’s face. She remains a mystery to all except for the self–assured Emma, who catalyzes Adèle’s coming–out by introducing her to Jean–Paul Sartre’s idea that “existence precedes essence.” As the sheltered Adèle ponders this notion that identity is not inherent, but discovered through action, Emma begins to sketch her. These drawings mirror Adèle’s growth as Emma refines rough profiles into grand nudes for public display by the end of the film.
These thought–provoking motifs of philosophy and art not only deepen the dimension of identity, but enrich the already honest, throat–knotting heartbreak that evolves, too. The frequent silence does not interfere with the intensity of Adèle and Emma’s love story, as it is conveyed even more powerfully through glassy eyes, tangled hair, trembling pouts and a few vivid sex scenes. While the romance takes an unnecessary amount of time to unfurl, Kechiche’s brilliant film is one of the few that accurately depicts the emotional torment of a first love—both found and lost. Emma is easily the best thing that has ever happened to Adèle, which is why she struggles so much when she lets Emma slip through the tenuous grip of her sexuality. The falling–out that ensues never fully resolves, leaving both Adèle and the audience with a tearful emptiness. Nevertheless, the authenticity of this passionate, energized and irresistible romance fills it, as this is the kind of love that does not only happen in the movies, but is indeed real.