On Blue is The Warmest Colour and what it meant to a closeted, teenaged me

I was fifteen. Unsure of myself, unsure of the world around me and deeply uncertain of the feelings I was beginning to develop; I was lost. As my friends began to develop an interest in boys, as first dates began to occur, I found myself isolated; I simply could not relate to their conversations and felt that I had to feign excitement and agreement in order to fit in. Many a time, I felt alone. I knew, even if I had not truly accepted it yet, that I was not really attracted to boys. Although almost everyone and everything in my life said I should be, I was not. I knew that I was the odd one out amongst my schoolmates, whether they knew it then or not. Then, I stumbled upon a film that would change my teenaged life and introduce me to a whole new way of thinking about sexuality. Having been a fan of cinema for a while at this point, I read regularly about movies and I was always trying to keep myself up to date on the most widely acclaimed. When I was fifteen, it was 2013 and Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is The Warmest Colour had just premiered at Cannes to widespread praise. Raw, teeming with passion, and heart-wrenching, this would be the film that my young self would cling to dearly and is one that I still turn to for comfort, despite its flaws, today.

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The premise of Blue Is The Warmest Colour is a relatively simple one: two young women meet, following a tentative exchange of glances on the street, and quickly fall in love. Their relationship ultimately ends up spanning a decade and, as first love often does, alters the lives of both involved, Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Emma (Léa Sedyoux), forever. For Adèle, their love leads to an emotional devastation, and eventual maturity, that shapes the rest of her adult life. This film is not strictly a love story but rather a story about the impact that love leaves on us, on our minds and our bodies, and how one relationship can mould an entire person. When we first meet Adèle, she is a bashful teenager, no more sure of herself or confident in her desires than I was at her age, and over the course of the film’s three-hour runtime, we join her as she grows from schoolgirl to schoolteacher and indulges in each of her wants; for both better and worse. From breaking down after having unsatisfactory sex with a male classmate to the elation of finally being able to release the overwhelming yearnings that Emma has awakened in her, Adèle’s experiences were wholly relatable for my young self. Just as she began her journey towards self-realisation and self-acceptance, I began mine. As she dove headfirst into her desire for another woman, I dared to do the same. It felt as if I was watching myself onscreen, as a teenaged Adèle attempted to make sense of why she didn’t feel any attraction towards a perfectly lovely boy. Her questioning of herself, of her feelings or, rather, the lack of them, following the consummation of her relationship with him mirrored my own confusion at my apparent disinterest in the young men around me. I felt as though I was not alone, as though both my turmoil and my burgeoning excitement were shared with Adèle. In her I found myself; young, conflicted, and curious.

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Now, at twenty, I see myself once again in Adèle. I am now at a point in my life at which I feel completely comfortable in my sexuality and yet, like Adèle just before the film’s final chapter, my future seems no more certain and I am no less terrified of what is to come and where I will go than before. While I am confident in my sexual identity these days, I still often find myself in a state of anxiety when I think of the future, of who I may eventually become, and Adèle’s own uncertainty towards these issues felt and continue to feel deeply familiar. While she may have grown comfortable in her sexuality during her relationship with Emma, Adèle is still not quite sure of who she wants to be, of what she wants aside from Emma, and this uncertainty is present even in Blue Is The Warmest Colour‘s final act. The discovery of one’s sexual identity does not necessarily signify the discovery of one’s ambitions and dreams. Adele’s lack of sureness surrounding her future and her hopes, which make themselves clear over the course of her time with Emma, provided, and continues to provide, comfort for me, as I, too, worry about my own identity, despite my confidence in my sexuality.

By the end of the film, however, Adèle appears to have decided to take her uncertainty in her stride, and heads out to face the world despite her anxieties regarding herself and her future. Just as Adèle walks away from Emma’s exhibition, now finally able to build a life of her own having emerged from tumultuous experiences, I hope that in a few years, I too will walk onwards into the distance with a sense of hopefulness for the life I’m about to lead. My journey has often been parallel with Adèle’s, from her first, hesitant kiss with another girl to her total dive into an all-consuming desire, and I doubt the similarities between us will end there.

Blue Is The Warmest Colour was the first film to show me that relationships between two women were nothing to be ashamed of. It was the first film to show me that lesbian love could be tender, could be sensual, and did not deserve to be hidden away in any manner. To fifteen-year-old me, the film’s depiction of the affection shared between Adèle and Emma meant the world and Adèle’s move towards total acceptance of her sexuality felt similar to my own journey. Their love, and all the ecstasies and heartaches that came with it, was fundamental to my teenage years, and to shaping me into the person I am today: a proud, lesbian woman and a firm believer in the power of the human connection. For that reason, Blue Is The Warmest Colour is the film that changed my young life, has stayed with me since the age of fifteen and will remain with me for the years to come.

 

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