Review: Blue Is The Warmest Color

This month's movie review took me on quite an adventure! It saw me leave my sofa! It even saw me leave my flat! Upon leaving I did not just head to Tesco. No: I was off to the swanky Curzon Cinema in Mayfair, which shows independent and world cinema. Yes, my friends, I saw a NEW RELEASE. And if you haven't guessed it yet, from all the tantalising hints and more importantly the title, I saw 2013 Palme d'Or-winning Sapphic sensation, 'Blue Is The Warmest Color'.

Disclaimer: I have not read the graphic novel, and all comments are based entirely on the film, with no knowledge of the book as a comparison, other than that the blue-haired girl is infinitely more dynamic-looking in the book. ;)

What the blurb told us...
At 15, Adele doesn't question it: girls go out with boys. Her life is changed forever 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.

Alex says:
I was excited! "For once!" I thought. "For once, my movie review will not be a load of scathing insults and obnoxious Smart Alec remarks, which the movie is nonetheless entirely deserving of! Instead, it shall be an account full of praise and wonder, and some tears of joy shall be shed."

Peeps, this ain't how it went down. I would call 'Blue Is The Warmest Color' a car crash, but that doesn't capture the iiiiinnnnnnnnnccccccrrrrreeeeeddddddiiiiiiibbbbbblllllyyyyy sssslllloooowwww pace of this overrated flick. Factually, this movie is nearing three hours. It feels like ten.

The movie is effectively your bog standard coming out story.
Adèle Exarchopoulos plays seventeen-year-old Adele (you might notice the blurb says she's fifteen. The blurb is wrong). "Hey!" I hear the avid readers amongst you cry. "Adele?! Wasn't she called Clémentine in the book?!" Why, yes, she was. However, the director CHANGED THE CHARACTER'S NAME because he had tons of shots of the actresses backstage and wanted to use them in the film. Standard professional behaviour with respect to the original text.

So anyway, suddenly, out of literally nowhere, Adele decides she's a lesbian, without so much as an intervention run by RuPaul where her awkward parents and sexually frustrated boyfriend tell her how worrying her vegetarianism and love of Georgia O'Keefe and Melissa Etheridge are! Prompting the lesbian idea is that she SAW a girl with badly-dyed blue hair (Léa Seydoux) on the street, walking arm in arm with her female lover (who might I add, just vanishes, despite us being told they've been together two years).
Adele and this blue-haired beauty have never spoken but the former enters a lovesick haze and spirals out of control and the closet (Blue Hair's unbothered at this point).
Adele tags along with her gay boy BFF to a gay bar asap. After ditching that lame establishment as it was full of blokes she finds a bar full of women instead.

The minute youngster Adele walks through the door, the women are dropping to the floor, panting, begging her to let them buy her drinks! Clearly I'm inadequate, as I have never had such an experience in my long history of going to gay bars. Naturally, the lez with blue hair, aka Emma, being a lesbian, is a permanent fixture in this lesbian bar. And you know the drill.

I have to say, I found this depiction of Adele's coming out incredibly sad. As I've mentioned before, I'm rather experienced at, well, everything gay. Adele's journey reminded me of every depiction of realising you're gay I have ever seen. At first I found this irksome. But then it clicked for me. Adele looking wide-eyed around the gay bar, drinking beer with her suave semi-butch love interest, reminded me, for example, of the "field trip to the Cock Sucker" in 'But I'm A Cheerleader'. 'But I'm A Cheerleader' is set in the eighties.

But worse, this bar-induced revelation reminded me of Leslie Feinburg's 'Stone Butch Blues', a book which I absolutely adore and hold so close to my heart that my Instagram name is an allusion to character Butch Al. For those of you who don't know, 'Stone Butch Blues' is a chronicle of living as gay, pre-Stonewall (and what are you waiting for, read it). When protagonist Jess, in her turn, has her eyes opened to the wonders of homosexuality in her local gay bar, IT IS THE EARLY SIXTIES. And 'Blue Is The Warmest Color' is set now. Has nothing changed?
When I realised the chronology of the connections I was making, my heart broke a bit.
I wish I could say Adele's coming out was the only cliché. There's also a painful scene where Emma teaches Adele to eat seafood (excuse me while I vom). Oysters for that matter. Hey, I wonder if they're making an allusion to how cool and androgynous Emma is, just like oysters which are hermaphrodites! Oh and you guys, remember when this exact scene took place between Nan and Kitty in 'Tipping The Velvet', published in 1998!! Yet another strike against 'Blue Is The Warmest Color''s originality.

What sets 'Blue Is The Warmest Color' (how long before my laptop starts predicting this as a phrase?) apart from every other coming out tale you ever saw is the second half, which is effectively a sequel tacked on the end. This could have been a really interesting idea. However, all this really did was highlight how bad the characterisation was. Adele and Emma were still acting as though they'd known each other a week, and they were meant to have been together four years!

The lack of chemistry between these two was quite astonishing. I especially found it strange as the pictures I have seen of the actresses in real life are extremely "Awww!"-inducing. You'd think they'd make an electric couple. But weirdly, none of this translates, and for that I simply have to blame the script and direction. I don't see what else could have so completely drained these vibrant women and made them so bland.

I'm going to say a spoiler now but it made me so angry I can't resist.
Four years on, Emma lost her blue hair and (perhaps with it?) the relationship lost its warmth. So what does Adele do? Only shags a co-worker. I could have got down with this, if she hadn't been taking her tips from Julianne Moore in 'The Kids Are Alright' and did the nasty with a MAN.

Jfnwifnwiuewje, why?! I do not understand films' OBSESSION with lesbians cheating with men! I personally do not know a single lesbian who would turn to a man for comfort as their relationship dwindled. A captivating new woman, perhaps. But a man?? I can only conclude there's been some miscommunication and the people making these movies don't understand what "lesbian" means.

Emma was also unimpressed by the aforementioned sex with men.

And then you guys, there was the sex. I'm very mature about sex scenes in movies. I think they can be incredibly tender and beautiful (the sex scene in 'Wilde' still makes me cry). These were just stupid, however. We supposedly see Adele's first ever sexual experience with a woman, and her second ever sexual experience with another person. Adele has no nerves. She's doesn't think, "Oh awkward. What if I'm a bit crap?" She doesn't think, "What's the socially acceptable sex repertoire for lesbians anyways?" Nah, Adele dives on in there, and she and Emma perform a routine which put me in mind of Cell Block Tango from 'Chicago' when Velma Kelley claps her hands describing her and her sister's acrobatic routine: "20 acrobatic tricks in a row... Splits, spread-eagles, back flips, flip-flops, one right after the other!"

I also found this sex scene offensive. You see EVERYTHING. My mum (who was my cinema buddy) pointed out that the movie is directed by a man which gives the nudity a really unpleasant voyeuristic feel. It's not just that they're naked. You physically see mouth touching vulva. This is a primary sex act for two (or more...) women. A movie would NEVER show a penis in a vagina in such a graphic way! It was like that bit in 'The L Word', when Tina and Jenny meet that shady guy who wants to make 'Lez Girls' and he says they can show real sex because "there's no penetration, there's no fornication" while Tina and Jenny stand looking aghast in suits and sunglasses. Um, no. You can't show lesbian sex. Everyone's determination to turn lesbian sex acts into a spectator sport, in a way heterosexual sex acts would never be, is indicative of a misogynistic patriarchy.

The only thing I admired about this movie was its dedication to have the colour, and sometimes the word, blue appear subtly in most scenes. Not even sure if this was deliberate to be honest though. Also unsure about the significance of blue beyond Emma having blue hair when the pair meet (it's not even blue for the second half). Had it been 'Lavender Is The Warmest Color' or 'Rainbow Is The Warmest Color' I'd have been slightly more on board. As it was I didn't get the obsession with Emma's bad dye job.

But you guys, this movie got five stars in Time Out. It won the Palme d'Or ffs! I'm left wondering if we saw the same film, because the movie I saw stunk. It made me feel deeply disheartened about not only the Cannes judges' opinions but also the general situation we as homosexuals are in worldwide, if this marginalised depiction of us is where we're at in good ol' futuristic 2013.


  1. shit "review";you are not funny;you don't make sense and this "review" is not how to properly review a movie.PLEASE try harder next time and make more sense and leave your "humor" in your head next time before actually writing the next one for the world to read

  2. If you don't like my writing, you're more than welcome not to read it, but I do request you don't leave me comments which so hideously mis-use semi colons! This blog is a safe space from bad grammar!

    Sincerely, Alex

  3. Although the review makes some really good points, (I particularly found the point about the voyeurism of the straight male director interesting) I feel like you've missed the point a little when you criticise it for things that are intrinsic to the art-house style. For example when Emma's girlfriend/partner disappears off, that's not a mistake by the director, it's meant to be an expression of how the time period would be remembered. Furthermore, your point about Lesbians cheating on their partners with men brought up some issues for me, firstly Adele never says she is a lesbian, and so to assume that she is basically undermines the potential that she is bisexual or discovering who she is attracted to.

  4. Hi anon! Thanks for your comments.

    I think the thing about Emma's girlfriend vanishing remains dubious, and if it is indeed that we are supposed to be seeing it as Adele's memory, I think that should be made much more clear - it was incredibly open to misinterpretation and felt like an oversight.

    Also, yes, fair point about Adele never saying that she's a lesbian, although I did strongly feel that was the implication - otherwise, I don't really understand what the point of the long detailing of how disappointed she was by dating/kissing/sleeping with a male was. Also, I get incredibly tired of seeing women who have previously been gay sleep with men in every mainstream release so yes, sue me that I'd like to see it not happen for once. I think it's a terrible representation and gives people wrong ideas, and we are still at a stage in development of gay rights when not everyone is educated enough to not draw ugly conclusions from such representations.

    I think these are further examples of one of my main annoyances about the movie: just very unclear and wishy-washy!

    But thanks for your educated feedback and for reading!

    Love Alex xx

  5. So quick to criticize yet grudging when being criticized

    1. I agree with you. This blogger doesn't understand the movie and it's style, so when being pointed out to her, she's too defensive. Typical American movie-goer. Just stick to your shallow Hollywood movies, hun. You can't dig this French art house masterpiece.

    2. The reviewer is British, not American! But nice try at throwing shade✌️

  6. love this article. appreciate the insight xo


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