I’m “biast” (con): nothing
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
It’s yer basic tragic French love story. Not tragic in that somebody develops a terrible rare cancer or is paralyzed in a skydiving accident or anything, just that there’s lots of angst and drama, because, you know, they’re French.
Oh, and they’re also lesbians. Not that that’s tragic, of course, and certainly not for the hetero male viewer who’d like to pretend he’s appreciating art when he is watching two pretty young thin white conventionally attractive “lesbians” get totally naked and have graphic (simulated) sex with lots of O-faces on camera. Tragic — for that viewer only, of course — would have been, I’m sure, if they had been forced to appreciate from an artistic angle two frumpy mannish middle-aged lesbians getting it on in an explicit extended 15-minute all-nude fuckfest. Would that film have won the Palme d’Or at Cannes? I suspect not.
The story of the relationship between Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Emma (Léa Seydoux: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Midnight in Paris) — based on a graphic novel by Julie Maroh [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.] — doesn’t distinguish itself terribly from any other romantic melodrama, except in its odd omissions. Adèle is only 15 or perhaps 16 when she meets the older Emma, but there’s no hint that we’re meant to see anything even slightly amiss in an adult seducing a schoolgirl. Apart from one scene in which Adèle is confronted by the homophobia of her classmates, there’s little sense of her struggling to find a way to deal with her unconventional life; it’s almost unforgivable, in fact, that, after establishing that Adèle’s parents haven’t got a clue that she’s gay and that her new friend Emma is in fact her girlfriend, the film never returns to her family, not even after the story jumps ahead years, to when she and Emma have been living together for apparently quite some time. Is their relationship still a secret? Is Adèle still in the closet to her parents? If not, how did they deal with her coming out? If so, how is she keeping Emma hidden?
These aren’t political issues — this is in no way a political film — but personal ones that it’s bizarre for the film to ignore when it is, allegedly, all about Adèle’s coming of age. And yet this three-hour movie has time to linger over adult Adèle, now a teacher, interacting with her nursery-school charges. Sure, the kids are adorable, but her work life is never an issue — it’s not like the school has any problem with her being a lesbian, as far as we can see, or that she lives in fear of her bosses finding out, or anything.
Director Abdellatif Kechiche has ensured that it’s all well performed — though Exarchopoulos does have a perpetual deer-frozen-in-headlights expression that, while perhaps suited to the confused-teen Adèle, makes less sense on the grownup version — but there’s nothing particularly surprising about what he offers us here. Not even the rather tediously obvious 15-minute all-nude lesbian fuckfest.
viewed during the 57th BFI London Film Festival