Blue is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adèle) left me pensive. This winner of the Palme d’Or is a coming of age movie. Bittersweet. Full of love and then pain and loss.
Adèle meanders through the landmine of late adolescence and early adulthood. Finding herself. Discovering her sexual identity.
Originally out to meet a male classmate, by chance she passes a woman with blue hair on the street. She is haunted by the image of the woman and breaks off her relationship with the guy. Later she encounters the mystery woman in a lesbian bar that she entered. By chance.
The extremes between acceptance, rejection, and ignorance of her relationship with Emma are stark. She is rejected by classmates who suspect her of being a lesbian after seeing her with Emma. The rejection is verbal and physical. And harsh. The two are open in front of Emma’s accepting parents. But hide behind a pretend tutor-student relationship with her own parents.
The film is raw, both in terms of the emotions and the sexuality. Nothing is left to the imagination. We are voyeurs in their sexual encounters and participants in their emotional ups and downs.
Over the next several years, Adèle settles into a comfortable relationship with Emma but sees the embers cool, her advances spurned by Emma. The rejection is made even more suspicious by Emma’s close relationship with a fellow female artist. Alone and lonely, Adèle turns elsewhere for comfort. Of course, Emma finds out about her male lover. Amid Adèle’s tears and apologies, in a rage, Emma throws her out. And regret fills Adèle. Follows her. Envelops her for years.
Adèle continues to live. But not really live life. Her life is clearly empty without Emma.
Several years after Emma threw her out, the two meet but Emma is no longer in love with her. In contrast, Adèle has never stopped loving Emma. She has always been haunted by the past. And the pain eats at her.
In a cruel final act, Emma invites Adèle to a gallery showing of her work. A life-size nude of Adèle that Emma sketched years ago during the height of their relationship is on display. But Emma only has eyes for (and hands on) her current partner, the fellow female artist she was deep in conversation with years earlier when she was still with Adèle.
Who really left whom? Adèle who cheated out of loneliness? Or Emma who had pulled away from Adèle and was engrossed with the woman who became her future lover?
Blue is the Warmest Color is not a warm coming of age movie. But one that leaves you with a vicarious regret for Adèle. And a pensive look back at your own past.