Monday, August 08, 2016

Losing him was blue like I’d never known.

There are two great disappointments in life: not getting what you want, and getting it.” – George Bernard Shaw. 

Blue is the Warmest Colour was released in the UK in November 2013, although I didn’t have the good fortune of watching it until about a year later. It charts a few dramatic years in the life of Adèle (beautiful Adèle Exarchopoulos, just 19 years old at the film’s release) and her life-affirming romance with an older girl, a blue-haired artist named Emma (equally striking Léa Seydoux; so hot she was made a Bond girl). 

Objectively, it’s undeniably a great film: natural, raw, honest, and phenomenally acted. It also has more emotional resonance for me than the vast majority of films, given that, at my time of watching, I, like the protagonist, was struggling to move on from someone who I had once shared an intense love with.

(This blog post contains plot spoilers, but you would have gleamed as much from the trailer of the film. The majesty of the movie was not so much the story as the way it told it, so personally I don’t feel you’d be losing anything from reading this if you haven’t seen the film yet).

Just like a moth drawn to a flame. Oh, you lured me in, I couldn't sense the pain.” – Shawn Mendes, Stitches

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At the start of the film, Adèle is 15. She casually takes a lover in the form of handsome classmate (Jeremie Laheurte), and whilst he pushes her buttons physically, she feels an emotional disconnect from him. She has a chance encounter with Emma in the street one day and she struggles to forget her distinctive visage, however fleeting the meeting. An understanding classmate reads between Adèle’s reticent lines and leads her to a bar, where the two women meet again. Beginning with a clumsy flirtation, the two begin dating, fall madly in love, and then move in together.

Emma, who comes from an accepting, bohemian background, is totally forthcoming about her sexual identity with her family and friends. Adèle, coming from a more conservative one, is more guarded, telling her parents that Emma is just her ‘tutor’. The two live in transient domestic bliss as Emma pursues her art and Adèle trains to become a nursery teacher.

Don't make me sad, don't make me cry. Sometimes love is not enough and the road gets tough. I don't know why.” – Lana del Rey, Born to Die

The flames of passion between Adèle and Emma are undeniable, and being young, gorgeous and ripe, they explore their feelings through their bodies, intertwining in some erotic, freaky sex scenes. But unfortunately, as volcanically sizzling their antics are in the bedroom, sex doesn’t prove a strong enough adhesive to hold a relationship together. Adèle struggles to integrate with Emma’s arty friends, and feels self-consciously exposed when they embark on philosophical and intellectual debates.

Plagued with jealousy and a destructive inferiority complex, Adèle tries harder than ever to make sparks fly in the bedroom. One night, Emma rebuffs her advances, citing menstruation as the reasons. Feeling more rejected than ever, Adèle has an affair with a male colleague.

I thought that I've been hurt before. But no one's ever left me quite this sore.” – Shawn Mendes, Stitches.

Call it women’s intuition. Or a hunch. Maybe she sensed it from her pheromones. Whatever it was, Emma isn’t stupid, and works out Adèle’s sordid secret. Cue an emotionally charged confrontation scene, one of cinema’s most devastating. Both actresses are so completely on point in their performances in this scene, Seydoux, as she seethe s with fury and betrayal, exacerbated by the fact that the woman she loves is playing dumb. And Exarchopoulos becomes every woman and man who’s ever misguidedly fallen into the arms of a third party and regretted it, unable to even answer a simple question without crying, because she knows her girlfriend has worked it out. That it’s over.

I'd go back in time and change it but I can't. So if the chain is on your door, I understand.” – Taylor Swift, Back to December

The film doesn’t end there, because life doesn’t end there. Adèle immerses herself in her teaching, something she is very adept at. Her students adore her because she’s patient and kind to them, and educating them offers transient displacement from thinking about Emma.

But when she thinks about Emma, it reduces her to tears. Unrelenting, ugly, snotty, crying. Tears of regret because of her unforgivable, stupid actions, and wishing she could undo it. Tears of sadness because it was due to what she did that she destroyed their relationship, which, however flawed, had far more good stuff in it than it did bad.

Anagapesis. falling out of love; the feeling of not loving someone or something once loved.

A catch-up between Adèle and Emma, long after the break-up, hints that the artist has moved on. She has another girlfriend now; the two have a kid together. Even if, by her own admission, her missus doesn’t satisfy her sexually as well as Adèle did, Emma is smart and mature enough to recognise that that’s not the only ingredient in a fruitful relationship. ‘You don’t love me any more?’ Adèle asks pathetically (I was in puddles of tears at this point; am crying now just typing this). Emma doesn’t think she does. But she has transcended the initial rage and bitterness, conceding kindly, “I have infinite tenderness for you. I always will. My whole life.


Even though Adèle is in the wrong, she struggles to move on. At the close of the film, it is ambiguous whether she has. Personally, I don’t believe she has. Thing is, Emma was her first love. An all-consuming love that completely took over, made her act out.

Love has no reason. Sometimes, we just get swept along with it, losing all rationality. Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux were joint Cannes winners for Best Actress, an appropriate assignation of the award given that both excelled because they played so well of each other (I have both in my favourite performances of 2013 list), and the organic chemistry they shared. The comfort with which these two actresses interacted with each other at press do's and premieres illustrate just how natural and relaxed they are around each other, and that translated very well on screen.

Although the film is told from Adèle’s point of view, you’re really invested in this relationship for both parties. You can see why Emma, in all her sophisticated glory, would be drawn to callow Adèle, who is nothing like her urbane mates. Adèle is green, full of eagerness to please (not just in the bedroom), and fully immerses herself into the relationship, doing whatever she can to satisfy her queen. Who doesn't enjoy being idolised a little bit?

And Emma is so cool, such a tease and so sexy, that you can fully understand our protagonist's anxiousness when she feels another even the faintest chance of her lover pulling away. It's precisely because she makes Adèle feel so good when she blows hot,  that makes Adèle feel just as bad when she turns cold. She's too precious to lose.

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Losing him was blue like I'd never known. Missing him was dark grey all alone. Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you never met. But loving him was red.” – Taylor Swift, Red.


For a long time after breaking up with a certain man, so much as thinking about this film would reduce me to puddles of tears. I recognised Adèle and Emma's story arc fully. Minus the cheating part, obviously, but you don't have to mirror everything about a character to recognise crucial elements of yourself in them.

Furthermore, it's not just Adèle, but Emma, too, who I see myself in. Her ability to finally disconnect herself from a girl who meant so much to her gave me faith that, when the time was right, I would as well.

But from the Adèle side of things, there is no shame in still feeling something for that person.

And that's why, even though I watch a lot of romance films, Blue is the Warmest Colour is high on my list of favourites. It has a savage frankness that most of the lovey-dovey Hollywood hogwash doesn't.

As Kurt Cobain so lucidly said, 'Thank you for tragedy. I need it for art'. And similarly, sometimes, digesting art is the only way one can recover from their personal tragedies.

I've only recently just moved on from the man in question so I can bring myself to write all this. But this is why movies are so much more to me than just a hobby. They're life-affirming, inspiring, teach us to be more empathetic, and allow us to live and let live.

Blue is the Warmest Colour, in its own heartbreaking way, let me know I was going to be alright.

Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, take a bow. ❤️

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