We all have that special something we can seamlessly relate our lives to, whether it be a film about an underdog who defies the odds, or a song that perfectly recites the darkest moments of our past. For me, one of these special somethings has to be Blue Is The Warmest Color– the film itself resonates with remnants of my past, as it spans across the turbulent years of figuring out who you are and what you desire in life. Although the film is quite a few years old by now, I still find it completely relatable, and figure hey, someone might appreciate finding out about this film, or getting the chance to read a thoughtful analysis of what makes this movie an orgasm for the soul.
Starting off, Blue Is The Warmest Color has been referenced a fair amount of times on tumblr and the internet- for a while, people were linking Ellen Page’s tweet about ‘blue being the warmest color’ to her embracing her sexuality, by association of the film. I can’t vouch for Ellen Page on this one, but I can’t help but feel the film must’ve had some positive effect in either her coming out or embracing her sexuality.
Anyway, if you’ve never heard of the film, heres a brief synopsis:
We meet our protagonist Adele in France, where she is running to the bus to get to school. She has obnoxious friends, who are all obsessed with boys and rather crude. She eventually goes out with a guy, but feels unfulfilled – something is missing. After going out to a gay bar with her best friend, she ends up meeting Emma (after having made eye contact passing on a street prior) and eventually the two kick it off and spend many years together.
I’ll leave the ending out, because regardless of how many times I’ve watched the film- words cannot simply convey my emotional turmoil!
I think it’s important to analyze various components of the film that are essential to it’s success- after having watched it a handful of times at this point, I still feel something instantly connect with each of the characters. It’s almost like a reflection on your hopes, your past, your relationships… There’s just something about this film that makes it relatable to everyone– because regardless of who we are, we are all searching for that thing that makes us tick.
Sexuality in the Film
Adele and Emma eventually become a couple, and that the main protagonist, Adele, is arguably bisexual. Her best male friend is clearly interested in men, as he brings Adele to a gay bar on a night out and makes out with various boys. Although it is 2017 and this film was made a few years ago, finding main characters (or films in general) that have a spectrum of sexual preferences is nearly impossible. To me, the representation of some LGBT characters had a major impact on my life. Sure, it wasn’t a box office hit over in the United States (at least that I know of) that everyone was going to see- can you honestly imagine if same-sex marriage is still a major issue here, that people would willingly go out with their families to see this?! But just getting to see sexuality that is fluid rather than the statically anticipated norm; it’s great!
Adele, who was unsatisfied with her boyfriend in the beginning of the film, knew she was missing something despite the fact that he was a great guy. Her fulfillment with Emma suggests that she prefers a romantic relationship with women to men, since in comparison she did not feel inadequate for quite some time during their relationship- which as I will get into later, deteriorated more due to personal differences and lack of fulfillment. Although later in the film (spoiler) Adele has an affair with a male colleague, it’s apparent that one of the main themes of Adele’s character is that she can never be truly satisfied . Despite her insatiable desire for something more, her feelings also correlate with how many of us have felt when in a relationship with someone who isn’t right for us or when we are suppressing who we really want to be with.
At one segment in the film, when it’s apparent that Adele is beginning to grow curious of her sexuality, she meets with a friend on the bleachers and they share a passionate kiss as they smoke. Although her friend’s romantic feelings are not reciprocated, as we see later when Adele is ‘shot down’ in the bathroom, it’s apparent that she is really beginning to realize her desires, and is taking baby steps towards discovering her sexuality- at this point, she has masturbated thinking of the ‘girl with the blue hair,’ kissed her friend, and confided in her best friend, telling him that she feels something in her life is missing, hinting at her fluctuating sexuality. She is slowly accepting and experimenting with these newfound desires, although it is clear she is still uncomfortable admitting her new interests.
Adele’s baby steps at discovering her sexuality seem genuine, because they represent the slow discovery of who she is as she grows into herself. By beginning to experiment with the concept of being with someone of the same sex, she gradually tests the waters without the judgement of others. She’s slowly acknowledging the other possibilities, realizing the black and white world we inhabit doesn’t have to be so black and white. Witnessing Adele’s sexual daydream, her curiosity, and eventual confiding in a close friend, is like watching a strange tape from my own past. From personal experience, if you aren’t completely sure of what you want or who you are, you move in a way that allows you to experiment with the concept without getting yourself into something you are still unsure of, or involving others in the process. We all know how the world treats minorities and those who do not conform to social norms, so it’s quite obvious why figuring your sexuality out is so difficult, especially if you end up in a non-traditional relationship.
Structurally, society has rigid guidelines about what is expected of us based on our sex. Gender, the social construction based around our sex, is used to mold boys and girls into what we perceive as feminine or masculine- it’s what’s expected but not what has to be. I think we’ve all seen the parent tell their child that they can’t have a toy because it’s not meant for them. Through this social conditioning, dressing like a tomboy (in the case of Emma) makes her an automatic target for any profiling. In the school yard, Adele’s friends ask about her by insisting she “clearly eats pussy.” The ‘stereotypical lesbian’ they perceive is generated by a series of signifiers that Emma gives off through her physical appearance. How these signals are interpreted, is heavily reliant on what society perceives as the norm, and how far the individual deviates from said norm. By adapting traditionally masculine traits, such as her tomboy style and short hair, she is stereotyped as the ‘pussy eater’ amongst Adele’s friends, hinting at the thought they are a bit uncomfortable with the idea.
Visibility in this sense, by breaking apart from the norm, is another part of Adele’s character that plays a huge role in how she interacts with others throughout her life concerning her sexuality. Stylistically Adele is clearly different than Emma, as she doesn’t look like a stereotypical lesbian due to her style and appearance. Therefore, throughout the story, a lot of people perceive her sexuality as being heterosexual due to her femininity. The fact that Adele is also apprehensive about sharing her sexuality with others, such as mentioning she is with Emma when the situations arise, suggests that Adele never feels confident enough in herself or her sexuality to admit to others who she really is. For example, towards the end of the film when Adele is a teacher and it’s understood that she has been with Emma for years, she still refuses to publicly acknowledge her sexuality when her male colleague pursues her. Even at this stage in her life, she is afraid, or possibly embarrassed, to ‘come out’ and tell someone that she is in a relationship with another woman.
This makes me believe that even if Adele preferred to stylistically be a tomboy like Emma, she wouldn’t allow herself to dress or act in a way that would allow others to perceive her as anything but the static norm- being labeled, as her friends called Emma, “a pussy eater” would only cause her to lash out, despite the fact that it is true. Although fulfilled with Emma, she remains uncomfortable with the thought of being identified as a lesbian by others, who likely would not even consider bisexuality as a possibility.
The Role Of Food and Family
Adele’s character, for example, is constantly hungry for something more- both literally and metaphorically. The focus on Adele eating, especially in frames where the lens is zoomed in on her mouth as she chews her food, hints that she is never fully satisfied, despite having enough. Her constant unrequited feelings are a major theme across the entire story, where we see various examples of Adele feeling inadequate, such as in her relationship with her boyfriend, where she admits she feels that something is missing. The same issue arises later in the film, when Adele decides to cheat on Emma with her male colleague- she felt that she wasn’t loved anymore, and despite clearly being infatuated with Emma, craves the love and attention that Emma is not providing her with. In desperation, Adele lashes out, even if it means putting her relationship in jeopardy.
It’s also apparent that Adele is not very close with her family and that they have a distant relationship with one another. Every night at dinner, Adele and her family surround themselves with ample food but eat silently, watching the television rather than talking amongst themselves. This leads me to believe that the emotional distance Adele experiences from her family, has cultivated the satisfaction issues she faces in the film. Due to the strained relationship she has with her family, Adele tries to compensate to fill the void- by eating in excess or investing all of her energy into a partner, such as Emma, where she is able to get the attention and fulfillment that she doesn’t receive at home. When Adele and Emma have a family dinner, her family is accommodating, but does not know about their relationship. The setting is darker, quiet, and comes across as cold- the conversation is scarce and formal, plus Emma cannot be herself. At one point, she talks about having a boyfriend in business, to which Adele’s mother responds something like, “that’s great, you can pursue your hobby and have a man bring in the income with a real job!” which suggests they view things traditionally- the man is the breadwinner with a traditional job and it’s acceptable for her to rely on him as she does something ‘less’ valuable.
Her families food choice, such as spaghetti with a delicious sauce, also speaks volumes. The first, is that it depicts the family as typical and middle class- the sauce is likely a family recipe, and the spaghetti is simple yet affordable. As the most popular dish in the film (it appears quite a few times), I believe it also resembles Adele’s character and her roots. Throughout the entire film, Adele desperately tries to depict herself as ‘normal’ rather than the ‘other’ to those around her. She doesn’t want to stand out or be viewed differently, and wants to be viewed ‘traditionally’ by others. Like the spaghetti, she has a special something, but remains largely typical like a common food dish.
In Emma’s situation, we see a complete reversal in her family life and eating habits. Although Emma’s family is only seen once at a dinner where Adele visits, a lot can be interpreted through this scene. It’s clear that Emma’s family has a much closer relationship with one another than Adele’s, and that they have a joyous and abstract lifestyle. When Adele visits, the environment is completely different than anything she is used to- the home is warm, the atmosphere is cheery and loud, full of color and sound. It’s clear that Emma’s parents support her sexuality and know of the relationship between her and Adele, and that they support Emma fully in her endeavors as an artist. The conversation is casual, but feels natural and inclusive. I believe they both kiss in front of Emma’s parents too during a toast!
The food at Emma’s house is “exotic”, as the dish served by the family is oysters. Oysters are unique in comparison to spaghetti, and much more expensive. It’s hinted that Emma comes from a wealthier background than Adele, which in some ways could hint at why her art career is supported by her family in comparison to being viewed as a hobby by Adele’s parents. If I remember correctly, the portion sizes served at this dinner aren’t as large as what Adele’s family typically serves, which suggests to some degree that Emma doesn’t require as much to be satisfied, but that it needs to be the best in order to be satisfying- quality over quantity. In one scene at the park, Emma does a quick sketch of Adele and insists it is not yet finished, pointing out the flaws. This suggests that she is not satisfied with herself or her creations until they reach her highest expectations. It’s clear that Emma has doubts about her work and skills as an artist as well, but that it is quickly replaced by her desire to create more since she has the passion for her job in the first place.
Of course, the family and food comparisons aren’t meant to demonize Adele’s family and praise Emma’s, but it’s something to consider when we see how the characters interact with one another or view themselves. Emma pushes Adele to find her passion, since she already has found hers. Adele can only find emotional fulfillment in Emma, rather than a career or in her family, and doesn’t acknowledge her other passions, such as writing, which could make her equally as happy as art makes Emma. I do think the portrayal of both families and their differences in the film is important beyond how they’ve influenced the main characters, because we each come from a unique family who may or may not be understanding about our own uniqueness- if Emma’s family was not as eccentric, would she be more like Adele and less empowered to embrace herself? It’s hard to say- she could easily be the same, but might not have been as confident. The same can go for Adele! It’s something to consider, because not every family is encouraging or supportive of our dreams or preferences, especially in the LGBT community.
I applaud the film for portraying Adele’s difficulty with accepting her sexuality and being open about it, because many people are uncomfortable with ‘coming out’ or are forced to remain quiet for various reasons. Although Adele had less reason to keep her romantic life hidden as she got older- for example, all of Emma’s friends knew about them and she no longer lived with her parents, it’s understood that her fear of judgement and isolation (such as the isolation experienced by her family or in school when her friends believe she is a lesbian) was a driving force that made her hold back from being comfortable with her decisions and who she is. Emma, on the other hand, has fully embraced her sexuality and does not seem to care about how others perceive her. When Emma first visits Adele at her high school, confidently standing near a post on the street, smiling and nodding at Adele, it’s clear she isn’t visibly bothered by all the kids staring. I believe if Emma had confronted them, she wouldn’t have had a problem agreeing about being “the blue haired pussy eater” they think she is!
One of my favorite scenes in the film has to be when Adele and Emma are at Adele’s house and have just finished having sex. They both smile and laugh at one another, Adele telling Emma, “my parent’s think you’re staying in the room across the hall” as they giggle. I think the reason this is one of my favorite scenes is because it’s not only apparent how in love they both are in this moment, but it reminds me of the first time I stayed over my girlfriends house, and her mum had set up the room across from hers for me. I remember us making jokes about needing to roll around on the other bed in the morning to make it look like I’d been sleeping in there. It was innocent and sweet, because we weren’t ready to come out about being a couple, much like how Adele wasn’t ready to admit her sexuality or relationship with her parents. I can’t help but feel there are many others out there who have had situations like this, and there’s something truly nostalgic and innocent about it when you look back at it and see where you both are now.
I also think the “lashing out” of Adele’s crappy friends makes the movie that much better. Adele is afraid of admitting her sexuality because she doesn’t want to be treated differently by her peers, which is even more apparent when a school mate (in the photo beneath this section) starts calling her slurs and accusing her of looking at her naked at sleepovers, simply because she thinks she’s a lesbian! Every single time I watch this film I want to rip this chicks head off for being such a cunt, and am even apprehensive about posting her photo because that’s how much I despise seeing her. Anyway-as if Adele wasn’t already struggling to come to terms with her sexuality, now she’s denying it in defense. The angry girl continued harassing Adele, as the rest of her ‘friends’ were chiming in, all telling her to “fess up” and admit that she was a lesbian. The onslaught at school pushed her deeper into the closet and is probably another reason why she refuses to admit to others that she is involved with a woman for the majority of her adult life, fearing a similar childish reaction of unnecessary hatred and rudeness.
Although I hate how ridiculous her friends are about the whole situation, I love that it was included in the movie because that is how people really are. It’s realistic, and I’m positive there are thousands of LGBT individuals out there who have experienced something to this degree or much worse. I also think it’s important because the situation shows how Adele is not ready to ‘come out’ about her sexuality, and how badly her peers are handling it. Personally, I didn’t want others to make a big deal about it when I started ‘hinting’ at it-and I’m glad everyone I knew was generally accepting- but that isn’t always the case! Coming to terms with your sexuality and being able to come out to others takes time, and depends on the individual and the society they live in. Although it was obvious to most of the characters in this scene that Adele was a lesbian at this point in time, or at least bisexual, she still denied the truth because she was not ready to share this part of her life with anyone. Being ‘outed’, as Adele was, before she was comfortable with it, was totally not cool and resulted in the aggression and fight that preceded.
Finding Your Passion In Life
Another reason why I think the film was so successful is because Adele is constantly searching for that thing that makes her tick- even when she has Emma, it’s apparent that loving someone can’t be all there is to her life. The issue here, is that Emma has a passion- art. Adele, although she wants to be a teacher, still seems to be missing something from her job. Although she loves being around the children, her main focus is undoubtably Emma when it comes down to things, insinuating Emma is her passion, rather than teaching.
It’s also clear that Emma has a problem with this, wishing Adele could find something to love, independent of another human. I think Adele is someone a lot of people can identify with, since many of us are not completely sure what we want to do with our lives or have a hard time making a career out of something they love. I also think a lot of people are dependent on the notion of finding love- spending their time wanting to find that special someone, but then having nothing left to do after, resulting in a rut where that person remains their only passion, rather than a career or family.
I think the major difference between Emma and Adele in this respect, apart from the obvious, is that Emma uses her life experiences to create art, drawing her energy and concepts from something or someone she is already passionate about. She loves her job, and her work is deeply personal. Much of her journey as an artist is a struggle in the film, but her hard work and dedication do pay off in the end- something Adele had promised would happen.
Adele on the other hand, seems to isolate the different passions of her life into individual realities. Her love for Emma remains separate from her career, and there is no way for her to incorporate her passion (Emma) into teaching. Her social life remains absent of any mention of their relationship, at least from what we are allowed to see, and it seems that a source of her lack of passion is that she is unable to include Emma in these parts of her life, since Emma is her universe. I think this plays into the demise of the relationship, because Emma knows where she is going whereas Adele remains static- she is comfortable being as she is, working a job that pays the bills similar to her parents, rather than going out on a limb and taking a risk doing something she loves, as Emma was likely raised to do.
Although I really wish that things had worked out between Emma and Adele, I do appreciate that the film brings the complexity of a failing relationship to the table. As much as I hate that it does this, it’s fairly realistic because not every relationship is meant to last and not every couple knows how or when to call it quits. From what I’ve interpreted from the film, Emma did not cheat on Adele, but is also responsible for ending the relationship. I do believe that Emma was not emotionally invested in the relationship after a certain period of time, possibly because of the demands of her work or simply because she was no longer happy. I think she was responsible for pushing Adele away by withdrawing emotionally and physically from her, and it made the eventual break up inevitable and messy- but I also believe she never stopped loving and caring for Adele.
For most of the film we see this magic between Emma and Adele where they are in this dream-like state of happiness and affection. Both are enjoying their time together, such as having relaxing afternoons in the park, family dinners, or having tons of passionate sex! As time progresses, we visit a scene where Emma is having a dinner party and Adele is preparing all the food for the event. It’s clear that Adele is not receiving any help from Emma in preparing for this party and she is clearly rushed as guests start arriving. Adele acts as the catering staff throughout majority of the event, serving dishes of food to the guests and pouring drinks for them. At no point do we see Emma get up and offer to help Adele, or tell her to sit down- instead one of the male guests mentions that she needs to take a break and has her take a seat. Throughout this time, we see Emma talking with Lise, completely disregarding Adele’s existence- both are having a good time, and are physically close to one another as they talk. The scene reminds me of when Adele and Emma were younger and first in love.
Their intimate interactions catch Adele’s attention and make her uncomfortable as she continually glances at her partner and Lise sharing laughs and being close- something that has probably faded from their relationship at this point in time. I believe Adele is not only hurt, but longs for that connection between her and Emma once more, because Adele heavily relies on her satisfaction in Emma to be happy. Maybe she is jealous, or worried after witnessing this, sensing that Emma is moving on without her, but I don’t think as a couple it is ever openly discussed. What is clear, is that Emma has found someone she is connecting with better than she has been connecting with Adele for some time. This scene acts as an important turning point in their lives, because it depicts Emma as getting closer to reaching success as an artist, and as a couple, depicts their relationship on the rocks. The introduction of Lise at this time additionally suggests that the couple is experiencing a rough patch- Lise acts as additional fuel to the fire, because whatever intimacy is missing between Emma and Adele, has resurfaced between Emma and Lise.
The reason I plant an equal amount of blame on Emma for the failure of the relationship, is because she knows that Adele is entirely dependent on her for emotional and physical fulfillment, but rather than ending things with Adele, cuts her off slowly and pushes her to lash out in response. Lying in the bed discussing the party, Emma tries to push Adele to pursue her own passion, so that she can be happy. Emma is clearly happy with her career, but seemingly losing happiness in their relationship, which is why she wants Adele to place her happiness into something else, not someone.
It’s also clear that Emma does really care about Adele, and wants Adele to have the same passion towards a hobby or job that she experiences with art. The lack of energy and passion between Emma and Adele could also be a result of Emma’s investment in her art-maybe Emma hoped Adele would be able to get the satisfaction she craves from Emma through writing during this time. When Adele replies that she is happy as long as she is with Emma, we can see that Emma is not happy with the response- likely because she is helpless and unable to get Adele to put her passion into something besides her, especially since she is not putting the energy Adele requires to be satisfied into the relationship at this time. Although I can understand Emma couldn’t get the point across, and probably didn’t want to break up with Adele, withdrawing herself wasn’t the best way to go- Adele clearly loved Emma and did not want to ever break up with her. Regardless of how poorly Emma had been treating her, she never wanted to leave- and wouldn’t have, had Emma not used Adele cheating as the final straw to throw her out and end things.
I will admit, the first time I watched the film I was so angry at Adele for cheating on Emma- every ounce of my being was glad when Emma threw her out of the house because I do not condone cheating. I sat there thinking, you deserve this– but I hadn’t at all considered the big picture and the complexity of their relationship in my initial thought process. Emma pushing Adele away was a recipe for disaster, because Adele was never going to leave- rather, she would find a new source to get her emotional and physical fulfillment from and stay with Emma. In one way, I believe both characters did not want to break up, solely because of the love they shared. However, it is obvious that Adele did cheat on Emma multiple times, and there is never any proof that Emma cheated on Adele- although Adele may have had suspicions, (and in all fairness, had I been in her shoes, I would have too with how things in their relationship were going) I do not believe her cheating was “to get even” with Emma or hurt her- rather, it was a desperate attempt to feel loved again by someone.
As mentioned above, it was obvious that Emma was pushing Adele away whether she intended to or not. After being isolated both emotionally and physically by Emma for an extended period of time, Adele had no where else to turn but to her male colleague, who she knew was interested in her. I believe that the final straw for Adele was receiving the voicemail from Emma that she would be working late again and not to wait up- mentioning how she’d be working with Lise on a project late into the evening. If I remember correctly, she laughs at something in the background (which is Lise saying something, but I could be wrong) and hangs up. At this point, Adele is starving for human interaction. Being that Adele has an insatiable appetite, both literally and metaphorically, she has nothing left in her relationship to feel satisfied by. If anything, I can understand why Adele feels so neglected.
As a last resort, Adele decides to go out one evening and dances with her colleague, sharing the same happiness she once shared with Emma. Although Adele did not have the same connection between herself and her friend, as Emma had with Lise, the physical and emotional connection of being wanted by someone, was enough to satisfy her needs. If Emma hadn’t been ‘rejecting’ Adele, I do not think she would ever have cheated on Emma. It was so clear that Adele lashing out was a result of being pushed away constantly by Emma for an extended period of time- and coupled with the jealousy she probably faced knowing Lise had a great relationship with Emma in comparison, pushed her over the edge. I can’t say that I blame Adele in this situation for acting as she did, because she loved Emma and wanted to be with her, but needed the intimate connection Emma was denying her- cheating still wasn’t right, and I do not blame Emma for reacting as she did. In some ways, I think Emma wanted Adele to feel so neglected that she would end the relationship; I really don’t think she expected Adele to just cheat and carry on as if things were normal.
The reason I really like, as much as I hate, that the film glosses over the topic of cheating, is because cheating is, unfortunately, another part of life- although not everyone will cheat, it’s impossible to say that this never happens in real life to couples. We all hear stories about people finding out that their partner has been messing around behind their backs, and how devastated they are to find out that someone they love so much could do such a hurtful thing to them. The additional element of infidelity adds another layer of reality to the story of Emma and Adele, because relationships are not all ‘black and white’ (like many things in life) and can become extremely complex. In this situation, although Adele senses Emma could be pursuing Lise, there is never any proof to suggest that Emma has been disloyal. Rather, it is assumed by Adele. Regardless, Adele does cheat on Emma, but not with the intention of hurting her. She was never cheating because she wanted to- in Adele’s mind, it was because she had to. Although I still don’t condone it, looking at the big picture easily explains why Adele felt the need to do what she did.
The Reality of Life
Overall, I think the most bitter-sweet aspect of the entire film is the ending- it’s always going to be a part of the story that I have a love / hate relationship with. I will always believe that Emma and Adele never stopped loving each other, but that Emma was able to get over Adele (because I really believe Emma was over the relationship in more ways than Adele- especially after she cheated), whereas Adele clings to this hope that things might work out again because Emma is everything to her. The reality of life, is that things do not always work out as we hope- and often, what you once had will never come back once it’s gone, as the film’s ending proves.
When Adele is at Emma’s art gallery, she looks at Emma and Lise smiling together and kissing for photographs more than she looks at the portraits. I believe Adele accepts that this is really it in these moments, and she will never have that relationship with Emma again. Adele sneaks out without saying goodbye and walks down the street, never looking back. The steel drums that played when she first saw Emma are in the background again, insinuating that this is the end of their story, as the camera cuts to black. I love the ending because the music brings their story full circle as Adele ‘disappears’ from Emma’s world. She leaves behind the art studio, Emma, her friends, and continues on- as depressing as it is, and as much as I hate it, it’s realistic because we don’t always get that happy ending we hope for. I just love how the ending ties any loose strings together- we understand that Adele is probably never going to see Emma again, and that although Emma is happy with Lise, she will always have a special place in her heart for Adele.
I never have felt a need to discuss a film to this extent, but this felt like something I could have fun thinking about and discussing- and it was! The not-so-great aspects of the film would be the sex scenes which came off a bit un-realistic; the amount of times Emma and Adele changed positions seemed a bit ludicrous in certain scenes, along with the fact that the director often pushed the actresses’ boundaries and pushed them to exhaustion shooting scenes until they were perfect. I remember reading an article about that, and I don’t think it was right. Otherwise, taking the film for what it is- I think it’s great. I would love to see more films like this, some with hopefully happier endings. If anyone read this far, thanks for reading! Let me know what you think of the film or if you have any suggestions for similar films to watch!