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The coming-of-age narrative tends to come alive for audiences in its reflection and recollection for us of situations and memories that simply cannot be denied. We long to relive our own experiences seemingly mirrored on the screen, but something quite startlingly different happens in Abdellatif Kechiche’s Palme d’Or winner (with prizes going to the director as well as his two stars — a first at Cannes) Blue is the Warmest Color.

Blue captures the raw sexual awakening of Adéle (Adéle Exarchopoulos), a shy teenager confronting internal questions about her sexual orientation that rise up once she passes Emma (Léa Seydoux), a slightly older artist with blue-tinted hair, in the street one day. A journey based on this familiar first step wanders into the most intimate spaces shared between two people over the course of several years (which, at almost three hours, never drags or feels exploitative). Yet, it is not the open sexuality that will enflame audiences; rather it is the naked expression of feeling from Exarchopoulos and Seydoux that will shock viewers into wishing their past experiences had an ounce of the haunting passion radiating from these performers. These women show us how to live like the young, when every emotion is too much to bear. (NC-17) Grade: A