Much as I appreciated this film, I’m rather glad I saw it alone. Also, let’s play ‘I spy’ for all the symbolic uses of the colour blue.
The short and spoiler-free version:
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
Overall: A very intimate, slow and thoughtful film with well painted characters. More than just a romance. However, definitely not for everyone.
Summary: Adele, a French high school student, has her life changed when she meets older arts student Emma by chance one day.
This is a very close up, very intimate film. I mean this quite literally. There are an abundance of close up shots, especially of Adele’s face and lips, which I found a bit uncomfortable to start but gradually got more used to. There’s an obvious physicality to the film, an awareness of how Adele moves and eats and repeatedly adjusts her hair. It’s a natural portrayal – Adele isn’t dressed up or possessive of a ‘lady-like’ elegance, and any objectification is the fault of the cameraman rather than the script or acting.
It’s a film with quite a lot of dialogue, and much more on the character study and realism side than the plot-moving and dramatic side. It is well done, but depending whether or not you mind this sort of thing it could be either a pleasant coming of age film or a slow drag. Alongside the dialogue, you do also see a lot of Adele alone, and the whole film is really just one big long window into her existence. The original title, “La vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 et 2” is fitting, whether or not the film is sequelled, because we are obviously just seeing a section of the ongoing story of her life. Regarding the other characters I think they were handled well – both sets of parents as well as the guys Adele meets are not given excessive drama, by which I mean this film does not focus on the homophobia issues as much as the homosexual interaction. Issues come into it naturally, but they are not the focus of the film by far compared to the relationship itself.
The visual clues are endless throughout, whether from the more obvious literary foreshadowing of the reading she does in class, Emma introducing her to liking oysters (oh please), or the video in the background of a party she hosts as an adult (showing her true emotions as Emma flirts with another girl), to the use of the colours blue and red. Here are a few others I noticed (subjective, of course):
- Her pulling up tight jeans near the beginning – a sign of her trapped sexuality.
- Tear pillow – a pillow with markings that look like tears coming from her eyes just before her first fantasy of Emma.
- Blue on her neck – vulnerability, a blue scarf for her reservedness near the start, later blue fingernails of the first girl she kisses touch there very visibly.
- The suitability of the partner she’s currently with can basically be determined by how much blue said partner is wearing.
- Blue teardrop earring – whenever you see Adele wearing these you know it’s a foreshadow for pain. First in the cinema with the boy she isn’t meant for, then in the toilet where first-kiss girl says she will be only that, and finally the first time her and Emma meet in the cafe post break-up.
- Red – again, for pain, as an obvious contrast to blue. Post break up, when Adele is wearing a red swimsuit and goes swimming in the ocean, wearing red whilst feeling surrounded by blue…well that metaphor speaks for itself.
- At the end in the gallery, Emma is wearing a red top whilst Adele wears a blue dress. Emma obviously still hurting whilst Adele has absorbed her experience of Emma entirely into her personality and forgiven all – she has come of age. But as she walks away on the pavement to the future she carries a red handbag – a visual metaphor for the fact she still carries her pain with her.
I would bet that at least some of those, if not the majority, are intentional and relevant. The director here obviously wanted to create a kind of high art, and someone who wanted it so overly clued up visually could begin to hint at the sort of person to have a falling with the two lead actresses over pushing them too hard. (Though unnecessary, and all my sympathy is with the actresses here). [x] [x]
Yes, I’m getting to that. The rightly controversial 10 minute and highly explicit sex scene that forms the first sexual experience between Adele and Emma. I could forgive the prescene of a sex scene (as it is relevant to the film), and even the level of explicitness if it wasn’t for the length. I really was cringing in my seat the more in went on, and just willing it to end. It really is reaching the point where it crosses the blurry boundary line to outright porn and becomes quite frankly, a film pacing issue. It is this, coupled with Emma’s undealt with separation from her first partner Sabine (which debating on what you assume, could form a bit of a plot wobble given Emma breaks off with Adele for cheating later), which are the only things that bring the film down.
Overall, a very earthy and arty portrayal of a relationship with it’s quirks and mannerisms. It’s candid and quite heartrending. It takes you on a journey but does, ultimately, leave you feeling a bit blue.