This film took the 2014 Cannes Film Festival by storm.
I can see why.
Adèle ( Adèle Exarchopoulous) is in high school preparing to be a teacher. She has lots of friends. She is beautiful, loves reading, and is one of those freaks of nature (like me) that loves her literature class the best of all. The discussions in her classes are fantastic, deeper and much more meaningful than most of the classes I had in college.
I was actually a little jealous.
There is a boy who likes her. She may not have ever noticed his interest if her friends hadn’t pointed out to her the way he is always casting glances her direction. We sometimes go out with people we’ve never really thought about being with simply because they find us attractive. It must be some need for reassurance, a need to discover why they like us. Unfortunately for the young man, Adèle is going to leave his feelings in a shambles, his self-confidence in tatters, and have him questioning for the rest of his life as to what he did wrong.
It wasn’t his fault.
It wasn’t even Adèle’s fault.
She’s been dreaming you see. Intense, erotic dreams of a young woman she saw in the street with blue hair and a fetching small gap between her teeth. Adèle goes searching for her blue haired siren ( Léa Seydoux) and finds her in a lesbian bar. It turns out her name is Emma, and she is an artist.
It becomes a torrid affair of passion and fire that leaves both women happily scorched by their own desires and overwhelmed with a growing obsession for each other. Adèle glides into the role as hostess for Emma’s parties. She cooks, prepares, and makes them smashing successes. Adèle’s nude portraits are the talk and envy of all the artists who all wish they had a person in their life inspiring that kind of fervor on canvas. As Adèle meets Emma’s intellectual friends, she is asked what she plans to do. When she says she is going to teach, everyone responds with a slight grimace. It makes me wonder if there is a growing anti-education feeling in Europe like there has always been in America. Both geographies may feel they don’t need public education, but for very different reasons.
Most of the conversations are over Adèle’s head, making her feel uncomfortable and out of place. I thought they were terrific and reminded me of the fascinating conversations in The Great Beauty, another movie I liked a lot. Emma, almost apologetic, tells her friends that Adèle is a writer, as if teaching is not enough, that anyone worthwhile must have some artistic endeavor they are pursuing.
As Emma becomes more and more busy. Adèle becomes more and more lonely. The intensity of their passion settles into a more work-a-day relationship. Jealousy blows through Adèle’s mind like a cannonball leaving her shaken and scared. She makes bad decisions seemingly unaware of the risks she is taking. Sometimes we are just too young to understand what we have until we’ve already mucked it up.
I realized at this point in the movie that I had become fond of Adèle despite her missteps or maybe exactly because of them.
The movie is famous for the graphic sex scenes, and yes there are plenty of them. In fact you might even say the camera lingered on those scenes longer than necessary, Some will watch the movie for those scenes, but I hope that they become more moved by the performance of Adèle Exarchopoulous. She shows us the emotional toil of a lost love and shows the anguish of knowing the lion’s share of the fault for her loss lies on her own shoulders. Life doesn’t always give us a second chance.
Adèle became the youngest artist to ever receive the prestigious Palme d'Or. It was such a demanding role physically and mentally for someone so young. I hope she has a long, successful career ahead of her because I want to be inspired by her again and again.