Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
Adèle's life is changed when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire and to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. In front of others, Adèle grows, seeks herself, loses herself, and ultimately finds herself through love and loss.
Adèle is a high school student who is beginning to explore herself as a woman. She dates men but finds no satisfaction with them sexually, and is rejected by a female friend who she does desire. She dreams of something more. She meets Emma who is a free spirited girl whom Adèle's friends reject due to her sexuality, and by association most begin to reject Adèle. Her relationship with Emma grows into more than just friends as she is the only person with whom she can express herself openly. Together, Adèle and Emma explore social acceptance, sexuality, and the emotional spectrum of their maturing relationship.
On the verge of adulthood, the wide-eyed and reserved fifteen-year-old schoolgirl, Adèle, can only imagine the delicate touch, the odd, yet lingeringly fervid feeling of desire, and the vehement outburst of emotions of her first teenage love. Increasingly indifferent to her male classmates after a fumbled sexual experience, instead, Adèle finds herself infatuated with the alluring and intriguingly mysterious blue-haired woman she encounters in the street. Inevitably, the bohemian stranger, Emma, creeps up in Adèle's dreams, haunting her deep and untamed late-night fantasies; however, before long, their youthful friendship will yield to an arduous, yet ardent romance. Undoubtedly, growing up can be hard, and, just like life, love can hurt. Is blue, indeed, the warmest colour?
Adele (Adèle Exarchopoulos) is a young woman insecure of herself. When she meets a blue haired girl named Emma (Léa Seydoux), Adele will go through an unexpected but conventional path through adulthood, as we see in two parts how their relationship forms, how it grows and how it ends.
- Chapter 1.
In the opening shot, Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a young teenager living in Lille, France, is seen leaving her house in the morning to grab a bus and the subway to get to school.
In class, they are reading 'The Life of Marianne'. The teacher speaks about chance encounters and how love at first sight can affect us. One boy says it would make him feel regret for not trying to talk to the other person. Adèle listens to all the discussion impassively.
During lunch with her friends, they gush about sex while Adèle just listens. A boy, named Thomas (Jérémie Laheurte) looks at Adèle and smiles. Her girlfriends tell her that it is obvious that hes into her and she should do something about it, forcing her to take a look at him. But Adèle doesn't seem to be very interested in him. Shes actually quite detached. That evening at home, Adèle has dinner with her parents and discusses her day. She later writes in her diary and then goes to sleep.
The next day, Adèle gets on the bus where Thomas joins her. They start a conversation and Adèle begins to loosen up. She learns Thomas is a senior (she's a junior, one year below) and that he hopes to study music later in life at a university. They begin to talk about music. Adèle says she loves all kinds but hard rock, as she stereotypes it as men with long hair who scream into microphones. Thomas laughs and says they apparently have a problem because he happens to like that kind of music. However, maybe it will give them an excuse to hang out again someday soon as Adèle notes, maybe the stuff he loves is different than her preconceived notions.
Later, on a different day, Adèle about to cross the road when she sees a woman with blue-colored hair with her arms around another woman. As people cross the streets, Adèle turns her head to look at the woman, who in turn turns her head and smiles at Adèle. Adèle is stunned to feel a connection to a woman she has never met.
Adèle then meets Thomas in order to hang out. They get lunch and talk about the book Adèle is reading for class, 'The Life of Marianne'. Adèle notes she hates when teachers over-analyze the book for her, thus taking away all the mystery and suspense. Thomas admits he hasn't read too many books but loved reading 'Dangerous Liaisons' in class since his professor was able to break down things he missed. Thomas promises to read 'The Life of Marianne' for her, as he is completely enamored with Adèle.
Thomas and Adèle go to the movies. Thomas goes to hold her hand and kiss her neck and mouth. Adèle lets him a little but her heart isn't into it.
That night, as she sleeps, Adèle begins to dream of the blue haired woman touching and kissing her. Adèle begins to masturbate in her sleep, touching her breasts and genitals, breathing deep. In the middle of it all, she wakes up startled. She can't believe what she was feeling.
The next day, her friends want details in regards to Thomas, thinking the two slept together. Adèle denies that they did and finally leaves when she gets tired of their questions. Thomas follows into the school and asks if he did something wrong or that he went too fast because he really likes her. Adèle, desperately wanting to try and be normal with a boy who likes her, kisses him back.
In the next scene Adèle and Thomas are seen in his bedroom and both of them are naked. They begin to have sex, which is apparently Adèle's first time ever. As they get into it, Adèle seems to enjoy it quite a bit. When it is over however, Adèle has a distant, detached look on her face. Perhaps, despite her desire to just be a normal girl who likes boys, it isn't enough or rather it is not the right thing for her. Thomas asks her if she is okay and if the sex was good. Adèle says that is was and kisses him. She lets him hold her.
Adèle talks to her gay friend Valentin (Sandor Funtek) about unhappy she is with Thomas, because she feels as if she needs to fake it. She also notes she looks awful and Thomas would break up with her on that alone; she and Valentin joke about how this will be how her relationship ends. However, this gives her only a respite from reality. She will have to face him soon enough. Adèle smokes a cigarette at school before going to meet Thomas.
In the next shot, Adèle and Thomas are sitting on a school bench. Adèle has told him that it isn't working for her but she never meant to hurt him. Thomas is visibly upset, but he lets their relationship end without any objections. He then leaves.
At home later that night, Adèle cries on her bed. She is confused over her emotions, and feels awful that she hurt a boy that only liked her and did her no harm. Adèle is now at a low point of her young life.
Later, Adèle joins her friends during a student protest in the streets. She lets herself get caught up in it so she can forget her problems for a while.
At school, Adèle sits in a stairwell and smokes a cigarette. A young woman from her group of friends sits down next to her and bums a light from her. As another girl passes, the woman comments that the girl has a nice ass. Adèle scoffs at the comment, and the young woman says she thinks Adèle is the cutest girl in their year. Adèle blushes and the young woman tilts Adèle's face her way and kisses her on the lips to Adèle's surprise.
At dinner that night, Adèle's mother notices a chance in her daughter, noting that she apparently had a good day. Adèle just smiles.
The next day at school after class, Adèle tracks the girl down in the ladies restroom and when no one is around, starts to kiss her. The girl however does not respond to it. The girl then tells Adèle that she didn't mean for her to get addicted to it, and her kissing Adèle was just some harmless fun, making it clear she wanted nothing more. However, she tells Adèle that nothing will change with them and she will not tell their other friends, keeping her secret. Adèle is crushed, thinking she found a potential confidant/partner.
Ignoring most of her gal pals, Adèle grabs Valentin and asks to go out with him that night. Valentin takes her to a gay club, where Adèle watches gay men dance and kiss. She is bewildered by it all but also sad because she doesn't have that type of connection in her own life. Seeing a woman that looks like the blue-haired girl she saw on the street, Adèle leaves the club, following the group of women to another bar.
When she gets there, she realizes it is a lesbian bar. She gets a few looks and some of the women flirt with her. Adèle is a bit embarrassed by the attention and goes up to the bar and orders a beer. Looking up to the loft area she sees the very same blue haired-woman from that day. The woman sees her too and grins. The woman comes down and after deflecting another woman from talking to Adèle, begins to chat with her. The blue-haired woman introduces herself as Emma (Léa Seydoux).
Emma tells Adèle that it is obvious that she is new to the scene given that she ordered a Bulldog, which a "dyke beer". Emma gives her a taste of her strawberry milk drink, to which Adèle admits she finds gross. Emma tells Adèle they don't get too many of her type in the bar. Adèle asks what type she is. Emma says the underage type. Adèle asks about what Emma does for a living and Emma replies she is 22-years-old and is in her fourth year of college, studying Fine Arts. They have a discussion of the various types of art and if there is such a thing as bad art. Adèle meanwhile admits she is still in high school as well as her real age of being only 16-years-old. Emma's friends walk up and tell her they are going to another club and want her to come. Emma introduces Adèle as her cousin to them. Emma then leaves, but not before getting Adèle to tell her the name of her high school that she attends.
The next day, as school lets out, Adèle is with her group of friends when she sees Emma waiting for her. Adèle goes to her, ignoring all the calls of her friends. Emma invites Adèle to come and get a drink with her. Only Valentin realizes what is really going on and watches silently as the two girls walk away.
Adèle and Emma sit on a park bench. Emma is sketching her. Emma asks if she feels embarrassed, and Adèle admits she does a little as it isn't everyday that she is sketched. The two talk a bit about philosophy and Sartre. Emma discusses how she agrees with Sartre ideals of choosing your own path in life without any higher principles, as it helped her decide what she wants out of life. Adèle compares the ideals to that of Bob Marley, and how the two were both committed in their principles and ideas. Emma shows her the final product, which she admits needs work. Adèle says it is beautiful. Emma then says she needs to leave and meet her girlfriend Sabine. Adèle gives Emma her number. As they stand up to leave, Emma stares at Adèle for a long time and moves closer as if to kiss her. Emma kisses Adèle's cheek and leaves, leaving Adèle feeling happy.
When Adèle gets home later, her mother tells her a friend, Emma, is on the phone. Adèle rushes up and takes the call like a nervous schoolgirl talking to her crush.
The next day, Adèle is quickly and decisively confronted by her group of friends. They want to know about Emma and why Adèle is hanging around with an obvious dyke. Adèle tries to deflect their questioning, saying Emma is just a friend. However, the third degree continues and turns very ugly. They ask about her going with Valentin to a gay club, which she tries to deny then must admit is true when Valentin confirms it. It is here when things go from bad to worse. They begin to ask Adèle if she is a lesbian and pretend to say that they don't care if she is but they want her to admit it. One of her friends gets very mean saying they slept together in the same bed naked and she wants to know if Adèle ever wanted her (based on the homophobic idea that all gay people want everyone of the same sex sexually, even friends). One of the girls finally takes it too far by asking if Adèle has tasted Emma's "blue pussy". That sets Adèle off and she attacks the girl, having to be pulled off by Valentin. Valentin pulls Adèle away from the girls saying they know nothing as the girls scream at her. One of girls of the group tells the others they took it way too far; they meant to ask politely and they ended up verbally abusing Adèle.
Adèle is in class having trouble concentrating on her studies. She is visibly upset and depressed about what happened between her and her friends.
Some time later, we see Emma and Adèle at an art gallery taking in all the paintings and sculptures (it is unstated, but inferred that Emma and Sabine are no longer together). Later, they have a small picnic on a blanket in a park and discuss the art and life. Over smoking cigarettes and drinking wine from small bottles, Adèle asks when Emma first kissed a girl. Emma tells her she was 14. Adèle and Emma look into each others eyes for a long time. Then, Adèle gets closer to Emma and kisses her. Emma returns it. After a few moments, they break away and smile at each other.
In the next scene, Adèle and Emma are in bed in presumably Emma's apartment. They are both naked and about to have sex for the first time. In a six-minute scene, we watch Adèle and Emma make love in a very, VERY explicit, hardcore lesbian sex scene. They take turns coupling and orally pleasuring each other which is primal and full of lust leading to both of them climaxing. When it is over, they lay in bed side by side. As Emma falls asleep, Adèle has tears in her eyes which roll down her face as she gently strokes Emma's naked body; she finally has found a sexual connection that satisfies her body and her emotions.
Some months later, (during the summer season), Adèle and Emma are seen at a gay parade together. After a while, Adèle loosens up and is happy. Seeing other same sex couples show public displays of affection, Adèle kisses Emma publicly, and walks down the street with her hand-in-hand. For the first time in her life, Adèle feels free to be herself.
In the next shot (another few months later during the autumn season), Adèle and Emma are passionately kissing each other on the very same park bench they sat at when Emma sketched Adèle. They are both very happy.
Another several months later, Adèle and Emma are going to meet Emma's parents for dinner. Adèle brings a plant as a gift. When they get there, Adèle is introduced to Catherine, Emma's mother and Vincent, Emma's stepfather. They are aware of Emma's sexuality and have no qualms with it, and openly support and love their daughter and her romance with Adèle (Note: Adèle and Emma have been in a relationship on the sides for two years now) . They ask about Adèle's plan after school, and she says she wants to go into teaching, as her learning impacted her life for the better. Vincent and Catherine applaud her choice, while at the same time, loving the fact that Emma is in art, despite its hardships.
We see Adèle and Emma having sex again (grinding) in Emma's bedroom. They never talk, but are both very passionate.
Adèle arrives home some time later, but doesn't find her parents. She goes outside to the back yard to see that they threw her a surprise birthday party with all her school friends for her 18th birthday as well as her upcoming graduation from school. She is happy as they sing her a song. They eat and dance, but Adèle basically dances alone since she is not comfortable enough to be fully out with everyone, including her parents. Thus, she cannot dance with Emma.
Adèle brings Emma home to have dinner with her parents one night. However, her working-class and conservative parents are clueless about their daughter's sexuality, and believe that Emma is just a friend that helped Adèle understand Philosophy better. It is clear that Emma is hurt that Adèle is lying to her folks about her, but understands why and goes along with it for her sake. Adèle's parents ask about what Emma does and mentions she works in art. Adèle's father says it must be hard to make a living, and Emma admits that is true so she is a graphic artist on the side to pay the bills. Adèle's parents ask if she has a boyfriend, and Emma lies and says she does but she is in no rush to get married. Adèle's parents laugh and say she shouldn't rush. Adèle and Emma share a knowing look.
In the next scene, Adèle and Emma lay naked in Adèle's bed making love again. When they are finished, they laugh about the fact that Adèle's mother thinks Emma is sleeping in the air mattress nearby. Emma jokingly asks Adèle if she is enjoying her philosophy lessons, and gives her a grade in the subject. They giggle at their little secret and kiss. Emma tells Adèle that she loves her. Overjoyed, Adèle tells Emma that she loves her too.
The film re-opens four or five years later. We see Emma sketch Adèle as she lays out nude on a sofa with a cigarette dangling from her mouth. Emma's hair is now dyed blonde. Adèle and Emma live together like a committed couple.
We see the first of many days of Adèle as a teacher for preschool age children. She seems to love her job. One her male colleagues ask if she wants to go out with a few others for a drink. Adèle declines saying she has plans. Adèle says that she is having a "family dinner". The co-worker accepts that, but says that if she never wants to hang out after work, to let him know (Note: it is implied that Adèle no longer keeps in touch with her own parents after apparently coming out to them about her sexuality which may have resulted in them severing all ties with her to express their disapproval).
Emma is having an art showing of her work at her and Adèle's apartment. Adèle spends the day making the food and making sure they have enough of everything for the guests. A majority of the guests are from Emma's art crowd which makes Adèle uncomfortable as the social and intelligence gap between them bothers her. Thus, she tries to busy herself most of the time, so she doesn't have to talk to anybody and feel dumb. However, one man named Samir (Salim Kechiouche) manages to convince Adèle to sit down and talk. Samir tells her he acts in movies, usually as a stereotypical Arab terrorist and has been to New York City several times. Adèle admits she wants to go to New York and see America but hasn't had time. Samir says she should as it would change her look on life. Samir asks about Adèle liking women, and Adèle admits to him that she and Emma are a couple and this has been her first real romantic relationship with a woman. Samir acts supportive, already knowing that Emma is a lesbian.
However, despite this nice conversation with Samir, Adèle is unable to talk to anyone else at the party. Also, she cannot be help notice that Emma has been very close to another woman, the pregnant Lise, who Emma introduced to her earlier. Adèle begins to think that maybe Emma is pulling away from her.
Adèle cleans up after the party then heads to bed, where Emma is waiting. Emma says she thinks Adèle should do more with her writing because it is so good. Adèle however says she only writes in her diary, and she doesn't know how to convey her voice in fiction; plus she has no desire to write. Her passion is in teaching. Emma speaks of life being about creating things, building things that matter, while Adèle is more concerned with just being happy; she finds her fulfillment in being with Emma. Adèle wants to make love but Emma says they can't because she is on her period. Adèle is a little skeptical given the time of month, but just lets it go. Adèle asks about Lise. Emma tells her that Lise isn't an ex-girlfriend or anything, but is just another painter like she is.
In the next scene, Adèle is at work again watching the kids have their nap time. When she gets home, there is a message on the answer machine from Emma, saying she is working late with Lise, and Adèle shouldn't wait up.
Deciding not to stay at home like usual, Adèle decides to go out and get drinks with her co-workers, including the male one that kept asking. They drink and decide to dance. Adèle loosens up and seductively dances with the man. Eventually, she kisses him passionately. A combination of feeling neglected by Emma, wanting a connection, and perhaps wondering if she is fully gay has led Adèle to cheat.
The next morning, Adèle listens while Emma is on the phone. Apparently, Emma is having trouble with a potential buyer who wants every detail about Emma, including her sex life in order to fully articulate her paintings. Emma tells the person on the phone she will reveal some things, but some things are to be left private. As Emma hangs up, Adèle tells her it is normal to feel tense at times about revealing her sexuality to strangers.
Back at school, it is clear that Adèle's head isn't fully in her teaching as she is feeling some guilt about kissing her co-worker.
Apparently going out with him again, she is given a ride home by him one night. She kisses him goodbye then pretends to head into another apartment complex before going to her real apartment. Emma is waiting for her, tense and not happy. Adèle goes up to her acting like nothing is wrong and that's when the trouble begins. Emma asks who dropped her off. Adèle first says a female colleague; she went out with co-workers and has decided to not be out with them. However, Emma knows it was a man, so Adèle is forced to change her story.
Emma then reveals that she saw Adèle kiss him. Emma screams at her asking how many times she slept with the man. Adèle initially denies it, but Emma keeps going on, asking how long she has been lying to her. Adèle finally breaks down, saying she indeed slept with the male colleague a few times but it meant nothing. She just felt so alone and Emma was pulling away from her and wouldn't talk to her. Having heard this admission makes Emma completely explode and she calls Adèle a slut and tells her to get out, throwing clothes in a suitcase. Adèle pleads to let her talk about what happened but Emma won't hear it and throws her out saying that they are through. Adèle finally leaves and walks down the street into the night, completely heartbroken and sobbing uncontrollably.
Adèle is back at school teaching and participating in a school stage event, but her heart it isn't it. At the end of the term, she hugs her kids goodbye. When they leave, she breaks down crying in the empty classroom.
Some months later, during a summer trip with some of her students, Adèle plays with the kids on the beach. Asking for another teacher to cover for her for a few minutes, Adèle goes to take a swim in the sea. She pauses off-shore and floats on the water. The water's color is blue, like Emma's hair.
Another few months later, Adèle is in class during a new school year, teaching dictation of sentences to a new group of first graders.
In the next scene, Adèle is at the same park bench where she and Emma spent time together. She lies down and closes her eyes.
Adèle is next seen in a seedy room of a flophouse where she now lives alone. She cries herself to sleep seemingly every night. One night as she sleeps, she jolts awake after a supposed nightmare (a deleted scene shows she dreamed about Emma and Lise having sex). Looking disheveled and fatigued, she sits up awake, chain-smoking and looking emotionally empty and desolate.
Another year or two later, Adèle meets with Emma in a coffee shop. They tenderly embrace and go to sit down to catch up. Adèle is still teaching at her elementary school, and Emma is still doing art and has a few new shows coming up. Adèle says she wants to save up and buy a painting of hers. Emma says she will give her one for free, but Adèle says it is a point of principle to pay for it, to which Emma nods. Emma reveals she has been in a relationship with Lise for several years and has become a second mother to Lise's three-year-old daughter. Adèle reveals that she hasn't been in any relationship since their breakup (which was over three years ago).
(Note: an implied argument can be made here that perhaps Emma had been become bored with Adèle but didn't have a good reason to end it. It is quite possible Emma cheated on Adèle with Lise. Thus, when Adèle admitted to her infidelity, it gave Emma her reason for ending their romance, hence her overly agitated response and her unwillingness to even talk to Adèle; she was projecting).
Emma says that her home life with Lise is intellectually stimulating. Adèle asks about their sex life, and Emma admits it isn't like the one she had with Adèle. Adèle says it must be boring. Adèle says she misses Emma and that she wants her. Adèle slowly starts to kiss Emma's hand. When Emma doesn't respond right away, Adèle tells her to touch her and forces Emma to kiss her. Emma, clearly still attracted to Adèle to some capacity, gives in to the advances. The two kiss and caress each other longingly for a few moments, but Emma pulls away. Ashamed, Adèle apologizes and asks if she will see Emma again. To her dismay, Emma says no. She has a family now and she can't risk it. Adèle asks if Emma still loves her. Emma says that she doesn't, but she has infinite tenderness for Adèle and will remember their times together for the rest of her life. Adèle, though heartbroken, understands and tells Emma she can leave. They embrace passionately. As Emma leaves, Adèle breaks down in tears.
The next scene shows Adèle back in her classroom teaching reading and writing to her young first-grade students. Adèle now wears eyeglasses and styles her long hair in a more traditional manner to make herself look older. She still appears to function well as a teacher, but now appears to be emotionally empty and unattached to anyone or anything.
An unknown amount of time later, Adèle showers, puts on makeup as well as a bright-blue dress, and leaves her small apartment where she now lives to walk a few blocks to an art gallery. It is a showing of Emma's work and she has been invited for a noon showing. The two old lovers greet each other and Adèle thanks Emma for inviting her. Adèle looks at all the pieces, and is both startled and surprised to learn that she is still a muse for Emma, showing up still even in her new works. Adèle quickly becomes uncomfortable seeing her former lover, Emma, with her new lover, Lise, who is also in attendance. Although Emma acknowledges Adèle, her attention is primarily on the gallery's other guests and her current partner.
Adèle bumps into Samir, and finds out he got out of acting and is now in real estate. Samir admits that this art gallery isn't his scene either. As Samir excuses himself to talk to someone, Adèle looks around and realizes a few things. One is that the incompatibility of their intellectual circles and their personal desires for life doomed her and Emma's romance long before infidelity entered the picture. Secondly, that this world of Emma's isn't a part of Adèle's anymore. She and Emma are no longer together. That chapter of her life is closed. As terrifying as it will be, Adèle realizes that she needs to move on with her life, completely away from Emma. Without saying another word to anyone, Adèle quietly leaves the gallery and walks home. Samir notices she is missing and looks outside to find her, but he misses her going around the corner and gives up his search.
In the final shot, Adèle is walking down the street alone towards her home. Adèle clearly knows that this part of her life journey is over and now she must write the next chapter of her life. On that sad and ambiguous note, the film suddenly ends as calypso drums play over the closing credits.