By Ann Hornaday. Photo: Media Films. Source: washingtonpost.com
Once in a while a movie comes along that doesn’t just affect how you think or feel, it performs its own kind of physical alchemy, burrowing its way into your consciousness so thoroughly that you feel permanently marked and changed.
“Blue Is the Warmest Color,” Abdellatif Kechiche’s long, sprawling, boldly immersive coming-of-age drama, works just this sort of magic. A naturalistic portrait of the sexual and romantic awakening of a teenage girl — played in an astonishing breakout performance by newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos — “Blue Is the Warmest Color” at first seems like nothing new: Portraying the day-to-day life of Exarchopoulos’s character, also named Adèle, Kechiche hews to the time-honored French tradition of dressed-down, realistic staging and style, devoting long, seemingly spontaneous sequences set at Adele’s high school and at home with her working-class parents.
Those unforced, quotidien rhythms don’t perceptibly change once Adele meets Emma (Léa Seydoux), a fresh-faced, blue-haired art student she first glimpses on a crowded street, then pursues into a lesbian night club. The two women fall into a rapturous, physically electric affair, with Adèle at first bewildered and finally beguiled by Emma’s assured delivery of a sentimental education.