|Starring||Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux, Jérémie Laheurte, Catherine Salée, Aurélien Recoing, Sandor Funtek|
|Release||25 OCT (US) 22 NOV (UK) Certificate 18|
Successfully dancing around cliché, director Abdellatif Kechiche never once reminds you you're watching a film. Adèle hides her sexuality from her friends, and when we see her and Emma passionately kissing in public, years of romcoms have trained us to expect a bitchy gossip girl to inadvertently spot the pair and out their secret, but it never happens. Similarly, when the couple get steamy in the bedroom after a polite family dinner, the typical awkward interruption by an unsuspecting parent isn't forthcoming, replaced instead by a cut which dramatically skips three years. It's refreshing to see a film so poised that it doesn't feel the need to rely on cheap narrative tricks.
Kechiche directs with sensitivity and tenderness (although not in the sex scenes, if reports are to be believed), frequently employing lingering close ups of Adèle's face, her top lip in a constant state of tremble caused by the maelstrom of emotions swirling inside her. He explores all the terror and awkwardness of teenage romance, with the added complication of realising you're gay, and the result is so naturalistic that when it's all over you'll be checking your watch, unable to believe three hours have passed.
The film belongs to Exarchopoulos though: she's in every scene, and is required to carry the drama without ever resorting to melodrama. Whether she's teaching a class of primary school children, haemmorhaging snot in a screaming fit of heartbroken desperation or hungrily slurping on another girl's fanny, she's totally and utterly believable. And while the latter of those scenes - and a couple of other, less cunnilingusy ones - do probably last a few exchanges longer than is absolutely necessary, it's only to reinforce the realism. So here's some advice: don't go for the rude bits, go to be completely engrossed in another world. Just, you know, don't go with your mum.