Texas Art & Film's Dr. Donna Copeland's Film Reviews & Features
Lea Seydoux     Adele Exarchopoulos


            Abdellatif Kechiche, the director, has created something of a sensation with this film, which is based on a comic book of the same name by Julie Maroh.  The two actresses and the director jointly won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year.  The story is about a wealthy artist (Lea Seydoux as Emma) and a working class high school girl (Adele Exarchopoulos as Adele) falling in love, which the film depicts graphically in extended love scenes. 

Adele is young and impressionable, and is immediately awed by the experienced, educated Emma who is concerned about art, philosophy, and literature.  In contrast, Adele has not yet launched her career as a kindergarten teacher, but she has always loved to read, and can converse intelligently with Emma and her associates in the art world.  Eager to learn, she asks probing questions (“Are there arts that are ugly?”)  The film is a coming-of-age story about Adele, but it is also a comment about uneasiness when people in different age groups from two different classes of society come together.  For instance, when Adele meets Emma’s family, she is introduced to raw oysters, and they can be open about their relationship.  When Emma meets Adele’s parents, they have spaghetti and they keep their relationship a secret.  Consistent with her age, Adele has a slight rebellious streak; it is important to her to make her own decisions, and she is impetuous at times.  Emma is more settled within herself, and has been brought up to be patient and refined in her interactions with others. 

The two women are passionate in their attraction to one another, and easily fit into a pattern when Adele moves into Emma’s house.  Inevitably, some friction begins to develop when Emma has to work overtime on a project and Adele feels a bit lonely, and resents Emma’s pressuring her to develop her talent for writing.  She makes some bad choices, and Emma is swift and sure in the actions she takes.

In many ways, this is a fairly traditional story of love and working through its problems, with the added complications of age and class differences.  The strongest part of the film for me is the poignant display of so many deep emotions, particularly the depiction of the aftermath of betrayal, the soul-wrenching pain and hopelessness that people experience and their reactions, which brings out aspects of their personalities unseen before, especially in the thrill of love.  The fact that it is a Lesbian relationship is really beside the point unless that is what interests you.  Obviously, given the Cannes award, the filmmaking and acting are outstanding, but it is curious as to why Kechiche extended the sexual scenes so long, especially since the actresses complained about that post-Cannes.  They say they will never work with Kechiche again.  The filming of these two attractive women is beautiful, but when we hear what they went through in filming, the impression is tempered with some concern.                                   

Grade:  B+