Adele is a 15-year-old French girl with very definite ideas about a future career in teaching. However, she is thrust into a whirlwind of confusion when she meets a quirky girl with blue hair named Emma, but doesn't quite feel about her the way she's used to. Emma shows her a world of romance and desire that is all so new and nerve-racking for Adele, who has never had a love affair in her life, as well as one of jealousy and heartbreak. When their blossoming love starts to wane, Adele attempts to find comfort in the arms of men - but finds only further emptiness. Young love is a confusing set of emotions, but just how baffling does it become when it changes your whole persona?
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The surprise winner of the top prize at Cannes, this three-hour French drama is unlike any movie we've ever seen, getting so deeply under the skin of its central character that we find universal truths in the story even if we can't identify with it. It's an extraordinary film that holds us in rapt attention, shaking us up until we are forced to look into our own souls.
It takes place in Lille, northern France, where 15-year-old deep-thinker Adele (Exarchopolous) is obsessed with literature and philosophy, trying to figure out who she is. She gives in to pressure from friends to date the cutest guy in school (Lahuerte), but knows it's not right. Mainly because she can't get the blue-haired Emma (Seydoux) out of her mind. Emma is a bit older, and as they get to know each other their romance blossoms from sex to love. But over the following years, they neglect each other, becoming distracted by other things until they reach a breaking point.
The script's main focus is on three main elements in life: food, art and sex. And all three swirl throughout the film. Despite the premise, this isn't a coming-out story, even though Adele is terrified to reveal her sexuality to her parents (Salee and Recoing) and her friends. Instead this is a detailed exploration of a young woman's first encounter with the complexities of love. So the extended sex scenes are never gratuitous, because they reveal the changing bond between Adele and Emma.
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The death of the family matriarch, a woman who clearly had the ability to keep her trouble-prone sons in check, has sent oldest adult son Christophe (Stéphane Rideau), middle son Marc (Nicolas Cazalé), and teenage son Olivier (Thomas Dumerchez) reeling. As the film opens on a chapter devoted to Marc (the film has one section for each brother), Christophe is in jail, Marc is hanging around with the local drug dealers, and young Olivier is most likely to be found talking to photograph of his dead mother. Dad (Bruno Lochet) is just as adrift, distant, and unable to keep control of the volatile Marc.
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After a preliminary scene in bed where the girl, Alice (Natacha Regnier, unrecognizable from The Dreamlife of Angels), mouths off to the boy, Luc (Jeremie Renier), taking a photograph of his limp penis and threatening to mail it to his mother, they commit a violent crime. Without fully knowing their motive, our title characters meander into a high school shower and stab their jock classmate Said (Salim Kechiouche).
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