Director Abdellatif Kechiche (L’Esquive, Couscous) has an expansive approach to storytelling, all the better to get under his characters’ skins and into their social reality. His latest, this year’s Palme d’Or winner, spans several years in the life of Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos). We first meet her as a school student, tentatively getting together with a male admirer but increasingly fascinated by Emma (Léa Seydoux), a woman with blue-dyed hair that she glimpses in the street. Before long they are an item, Adèle becoming the muse for Emma’s art while she pursues her own path into adulthood. The extended scenes of lesbian sex earned headlines in Cannes – and sparked critical debate over the question of Kechiche’s male take on the material – but these sequences are strikingly new in a mainstream context, not just in their uninhibited nature, but because they’re about female pleasure presented in a direct, non-mystificatory way. The film’s compelling grip is partly down to Kechiche’s eye as a social observer, partly because of its two lead actors. Seydoux depicts Emma with genial wit and toughness, while Exarchopoulos is a revelation, offering a fearless, deeply affecting performance of remarkable intensity. The result is something rare – a film that truly catches the messy, mesmerising turbulence of life and love.

Premiered at the BFI London Film Festival on October 15 2013.



November 22, 2013


Abdellatif Kechiche


Abdellatif Kechiche, Ghalia Lacroix (adaptation), Julie Maroh (comic)


Sundance Selects


Drama, Romance




179 minutes