Blue Is the Warmest Colour (French: La Vie d'Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2 – "The Life of Adèle – Chapters 1 & 2") is a 2013 French coming-of-age erotic romantic drama film co-written, co-produced, and directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, starring Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux. The film revolves around Adèle (Exarchopoulos), a French teenager who discovers desire and freedom when a blue-haired aspiring painter (Seydoux) enters her life. The film charts their relationship from Adele's high school years to her early adult life and career as a school teacher. The premise of Blue Is the Warmest Colour is based on the 2010 French graphic novel of the same name by Julie Maroh, which was published in North America in 2013.
Production began in March 2012 and lasted six months. Approximately 800 hours of footage was shot, including extensive B-roll footage, with Kechiche ultimately trimming the final cut of the film down to 179 minutes. The film generated controversy upon its premiere at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and before its release. Much of the controversy was centred around claims of poor working conditions on set by the crew and the lead actresses, and also the film's raw depiction of sexuality.
At the 2013 Cannes Film Festival the film unanimously won the Palme d'Or from the official jury and the FIPRESCI Prize. It is the first film to have the Palme d'Or awarded to both the director and the lead actresses, with Seydoux and Exarchopoulos joining Jane Campion (The Piano) as the only women to have won the award. The film had its North American premiere at the 2013 Telluride Film Festival. The film received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language. Many critics declared it one of the best films of 2013.
Adèle is an introverted high-school student whose classmates gossip constantly about boys. While crossing the street one day, she passes by a woman with short blue hair and is instantly attracted. She dates a boy at her school for a short while and they have sex, but she is ultimately dissatisfied and breaks off their relationship. After having vivid fantasies about the woman she saw on the street and having one of her female friends kiss her, she becomes troubled about her sexual identity. One friend, the openly gay Valentin, seems to understand her confusion and takes her to a gay dance bar. After some time, Adèle leaves and walks into a lesbian bar, where she experiences assertive advances from some of the women. The blue haired woman is also there and intervenes, claiming Adèle is her cousin to those pursuing Adèle. The woman is Emma, a graduating art student. They become friends and begin to spend more time with each other. Adèle's friends suspect her of being a lesbian and ostracise her at school. Despite the backlash, she becomes very close to Emma. Their bond increases and before long, the two share a kiss at a picnic. They later have sex and begin a passionate relationship. Emma's artsy family is very welcoming to the couple, but Adèle tells her conservative, working-class parents that Emma is just a tutor for philosophy class.
In the years that follow, the two women move in and live with each other. Adèle finishes school and joins the teaching staff at a local elementary school, while Emma tries to move forward with her painting career, frequently throwing house parties to socialise with her circle. At one of these, Adèle meets some of them, Lise, a pregnant woman and colleague, Joachim, "the biggest gallery owner in Lille", and eventually Samir, an aspiring actor who feels out of place amongst the intellectuals, with whom she strikes up a friendship. Emma belittles Adèle's teaching career, encouraging her to find fulfilment in writing, while Adèle insists that she is happy the way she is. It gradually becomes increasingly apparent how little they have in common, and emotional complexities manifest in the relationship. Adèle, out of loneliness and confusion, sleeps with a male colleague.
Emma becomes aware of the fling and furiously confronts Adèle, refusing her tearful apologies and turning her out of their apartment in a fit of rage. Time passes and although Adèle finds satisfaction in her job as a kindergarten teacher, she still cannot overcome her heartbreak. The two eventually meet again in a restaurant. Adèle is still very deeply in love with Emma and despite the powerful connection that is clearly still there between them, Emma is now in a committed partnership with Lise, who now has a young daughter. Adèle is devastated, but holds it in. Emma admits that she does not feel sexually fulfilled but has accepted it as a part of her new phase in life. She reassures Adèle that their relationship was special, and that she will always have infinite tenderness for her. The two part on amicable terms.
The film concludes with Adèle at Emma's new art exhibition. Hanging on one wall is a nude painting that Emma once did of her during the sensual bloom of their life together. Though Emma acknowledges her, her attention is primarily on the gallery's other guests and Lise. Adèle congratulates Emma on the success of her art and leaves quietly after a brief conversation with Samir. He chases after her but heads in the wrong direction. Adèle walks away into the distance, having accepted the end of a chapter in her life.