Quick Note: I couldn’t talk about the graphic novel without talking about the film, so I’m considering this a review of both.
Another quick note: In the film, the character known as Clementine in the graphic novel is called Adele. If I use the name Adele I’ll be referring to the film version of the character only just as Clementine will refer to the graphic novel version only.
Graphic Novel – 4.5/5
Film – 5/5
A little less than a month ago I watched Blue is the Warmest Color on Netflix and I’ve been dying to talk about it. If you’ve never heard of the film or graphic novel, I’ll give you a brief overview before diving into my behemoth of a review.
The story follows a 15-year-old girl named Clementine and after a moment where she makes eye contact with a blue haired girl in the street, she suddenly starts to question her sexuality and the two eventually start a relationship.
That’s the bare bones of the story and if that one sentence summary interested you at all, then this is for you. If you would prefer a three-hour movie where not one word of English is spoken, then I’d suggest the film. If not, the graphic novel is for you. Or both! I went with both.
I saw the film first, and after finishing it I knew I had to get my hands on the graphic novel because these characters were absolutely compelling to me. I was sucked into their relationship from the moment they cross the street and make eye contact, a scene that is basically taken shot for shot from the graphic novel.
At first, I was hesitant to watch the movie because I’d heard about the multiple explicit sex scenes and the idea of that made me uncomfortable. When I watched the movie, the only thing that bothered me was that the first scene went on far too long. To the point where it was comical. If this is your hang up as well, don’t let it stop you, because the movie is really well done. The graphic novel has an explicit sex scene as well, but it feels right and the relationship between Clementine and Emma has been building. It doesn’t feel inauthentic or pornographic which is a huge criticism of the film. I understand that criticism of the film. For me, I found the sex scenes to be the least interesting parts of the film. The film holds up well on its own and would be just as good without them.
The relationship between these two characters is a huge part of both the graphic novel and the film, and their relationship spans quite a long time. Several years in fact. In the graphic novel, it’s explicitly stated that their relationship starts when Clementine is 16-17 years old and continues until she is 30 years old. In the film, it’s not as clear. However, their entire relationship isn’t covered. We only get bits and pieces, the highlight reel if you will. The graphic novel is about 150 pages, and while the film is three hours long, that’s right three hours. The two don’t meet or speak until about an hour into the film.
In the graphic novel, I found them to be quite immature. I get the feeling this might have been intentional. Young love is exciting and you don’t really think about the consequences of your actions. Even though you are incredibly happy and in love, you might not have any clue what you are doing. When their relationship starts out, Emma has a girlfriend. This is a plot point in the book and ignored in the film. It was very interesting to see how their relationship changed as we went through 13 years of their relationship. They changed as people and as a result, they discovered they were two very different people. I think this story is an excellent examination of a relationship and it’s definitely one that I encourage others to read.
The story isn’t just about their relationship, however, it’s about Clementine discovering her sexuality. This happens very similarly in the book and film. She sees Emma when crossing a street, makes eye contact with her, and then starts having dreams of this mysterious blue-haired girl. From that moment on, she struggles with her identity and sexuality. There are a lot of things that don’t work out for her and there’s a lot of homophobia. More than I was expecting. As an American, I always see Europe (the story takes place in France) as more open than our country is. Unfortunately, nobody escapes homophobia and it’s unfortunate. Nobody is alone in their struggle for belonging. In addition to the homophobia, there’s a lot of self-loathing which was hard to read about, but again it’s not a struggle anyone goes through alone.
All-in-all, I’d definitely recommend the graphic novel and the film. The graphic novel has gorgeous art in it and a compelling story of a young love. The film takes the same story and tweaks things a bit, but in the end, it’s an examination of two young women who enter a relationship and while they are in love aren’t prepared for how difficult it can be.
Now, there’s one last thing that I’d like to talk about and this is getting into MAJOR SPOILERS for both the film and the graphic novel. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
There is one distinct difference between the graphic novel and the film, honestly, I was taken aback by it.
At the beginning of the graphic novel, we find out Clementine has died. This doesn’t happen in the film and I honestly prefer the film version. In the film, Adele cheats on Emma (this happens in the graphic novel as well) and their relationship is over. Emma ends up in a relationship with another woman and moves on with her life while Adele struggles to move on. They have one last conversation where they both admit they still are attracted to each other and have feelings for each other, but nothing happens, and they have one last encounter at Emma’s art exhibit and then Adele walks away. With the implication that she’s finally ready to move on with her life.
Here’s the thing, when I finished watching the film, I got the sense that these two were incompatible. They had an exciting romance when they were young, and as they got older they realized how truly different they were and that they needed different things from a partner. That happens in life. Finding one person to spend your life with isn’t always a reality. Sometimes relationships end because things aren’t working out. It’s not a happy ending or a story we like watching, but it happens. I think the graphic novel’s biggest flaw was Clementine dying. At the end of the film, the relationship might not have worked out, but Adele has a future ahead of her and a chance at love. That’s taken away in the graphic novel through self-destruction. I felt the film had a more positive message and that’s ultimately why I preferred it.
This doesn’t diminish how much I enjoyed the graphic novel by any means, but the film impacted me more by the time the credits rolled. Which is why I rate it higher, despite its flaws. Perhaps it’s because films are the medium closer to my heart, but either way, the story of these two young women is powerful. Whether you watch the movie or read the graphic novel, I highly recommend both to anyone.