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Review: Blue is the Warmest Color glows with extraordinary acting (Includes first-hand account)

A French film originally titled La vie d’Adèle, Blue is the Warmest Colour premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival with much fanfare, thanks to the buzz it attracted at the Cannes Film Festival. It took home the prestigious Palme D’Or award, and for the first time the prize was also officially awarded to two of the actors.

While some critics couldn’t help but harp on the 10-minute lesbian sex scene between Seydoux and Exarchopoulos, Blue won over this reviewer thanks to the talented ensemble. If you’re looking for a display of heart-wrenching acting you rarely see in Hollywood flicks, Blue is for you.

The story begins with Adele (Adèle Exarchopoulos) flirting coyly with a young boy at her high school, navigating her friendships and discovering what motivates her. When she meets a blue-haired older woman (Léa Seydoux of Midnight in Paris fame), Adele is forced to recognize her queer urges and give in to a lesbian relationship she so sorely desires.

This passion story plays out like a long haul of the many cigarettes the characters smoke on screen, drawing us into Adele’s self-discovery. The writing is impeccably evocative, providing insight into how a lesbian girl has to fight against the tide of friends who hurl insults straight into her face. Poetry peppers some of Exarchopoulos’ lines as she tries to express the lust and love fermenting in her young heart.

Yes, you might be uncomfortable watching that steamy sex scene with two very naked and moaning actresses (don’t see this film with your parents) but that’s the rub: we get uncomfortable because we don’t often see queer sex so explicitly displayed on screen. But this film tells us how love is love no matter the skin we finds ourselves in; also, relationship pain cuts deep, and that’s where the actors truly shine.

In an intense fighting scene, Seydoux and Exarchopoulos show off some of the finest acting chops I’ve seen in a long time. The tears feel real, the emotion doesn’t seem forced and the drama runs harsh throughout the strained words pouring from their mouths. The ugliness of this scene is wonderfully countering the beauty we saw in the more pleasurable evenings Adele and Emma spent together.

Blue is the Warmest Color could use some editing, though. Three hours felt long despite the fantastic pacing, but it’s obvious director Abdellatif Kechiche wanted to steer our gaze into long and steady shots of Adele adoring Emma’s neckline; or we see extensive moments of Adele working in her job as a teacher, providing a peek into a simple life she chose to live despite a passion she holds for the arts, particularly writing.

As TIFF begins to take over Toronto, Blue should be a reminder that foreign films continue to be the impressive showcases at this fest, perfect for any adventerous filmgoer.

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