rating: 4.5Blue is the Warmest Color is a film that swallows you. Watching it, you slowly become less and less aware of everything occurring outside of it. It's running time (just about three hours) melts away, its weaker moments are dwarfed by its strength and story. We're haunted by it long after we leave the theater; it sits in our gut like the memory of a lost lover. The film, directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, is the story of Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a high school student, and the relationship she forms with the older, blue-haired Emma (Léa Seydoux). Their relationship, sparked by a chance passing on the street, is full of intensity and heartbreak, but more than anything else, it is full of their youth. They make mistakes. They try to do the right thing and end up being wrong. They hurt one another without understanding why. The beauty of Blue comes in how well it shows us these moments without ever forcing them on us. We feel like we're watching two lives, not two characters, and we ache along with them through every setback. While Kechiche's direction, subtle and naturalistic, enhances this feeling, it's Exarchopoulos and Seydoux who truly elevate the film. Their joint performance feels like a revelation, but it is Exarchopoulos, at only 19 years old, who is truly amazing. She captures our attention without ever seeming to try. In every scene we watch her because we have to, even if she only lingers in the background or floats behind the action. Her work is bold and brave and beautiful because of how complete it is. Whatever struggles occurred off camera, none of them have marred what ends up on screen. Her work is pure and whole, and in all likelihood, the finest of the year. Of course, the main talking point has been the film's long, graphic sex scenes. Because the scenes are used to show us the intimacy and attachment between Adèle and Emma, they are (necessarily) eroticized, if only so we can feel what the characters feel. At times this does, however, blur the line between narrative necessity and indulgence and pornography. Part of the problem is that Kechiche doesn't seem to know how he wants to frame these moments. When we're up close with Adèle, there's a real joy in them. It's rare to see love and love making depicted this honestly. But too often Kechiche sets up the shots and scenes in a reserved manner, sitting back and letting the camera watch the proceedings without being involved. In these moments the sex does feel like exhibitionism; the camera a complicit voyeur. It doesn't totally break the strength or emotion of the movie, but it does slow it. And when some love scenes go on longer than they should, it feels like it may drift into self-parody. Lucky, then, that emotion and not physical action is what makes the film tick. Kechiche knows how to show us every angle of Adèle and Emma's love, the pretty and nasty bits alike. He gives us love as what it is: desperate, all-encompassing, and total. A beautiful frustration that we all experience and want to keep experiencing no matter what it's done to us in the past. Blue is the Warmest Color is that uncommon film that makes every cliche about the emotion seem hollow; makes everything connect with us. The film lives in unspoken moments. Silences, stares, sighs of regret. It visualizes feelings that cannot be put into words. It's hard to ask for more from a film.