As this year’s winner of Cannes’ coveted Palme d’Or prize, the festival’s highest honor, Blue is the Warmest Color couldn’t be anything but beautifully shot and conceptually top-notch. Famed French filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche directs Léa Seydoux (Midnight in Paris) and newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos in this coming-of-age tale, most notable for having more graphic sex scenes than you can count on five sticky little fingers.

The film follows Exarchopoulos’ character (also named Adèle) as she feels her way from adolescence to adulthood, confronting homophobia, loneliness, and uncertainty. Like last year’s Pariah, Blue is a story firmly anchored in the performance of its complex leading lady. But it’s Adèle’s blue-haired pal Emma (Seydoux) who guides her sexual awakening, pulling euphoric, orgasmic highs from Adèle’s deep, depressive lows. The characters are stunning to watch and relatable in a way that will make your insides swell and shrivel up accordingly. Taking in this sweeping account of their lives together, it’s easy for viewers to forget that the film is three hours long.
The question keeping critics up at night, however, is this: Is it porn? One of the pair’s many sex scenes lasts a generous (or gratuitous) 15 minutes. And Julie Maroh, creator of the comic book on which the film is based, says “as a feminist and a lesbian,” she can’t endorse it—calling the romps inauthentic and male-gaze oriented. Debates about the flick will no doubt heat up once it hits theaters. But lovers and haters are certain to agree: this steamy tour de force will leave you squirming in your seat—for one reason or another. [Laurel Walsh]

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