This year's most vulnerable, fearless cinematic turn won't come from Cate or Nicole or Julia or even Meryl. It'll arrive with 19-year-old newcomer Adele Exarchopoulos's heartbreaking portrayal of Adele, a shy middle-class high schooler undergoing a sexual awakening in Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue Is the Warmest Color (opening Oct. 25), a riveting French drama chronicling six years of the girl's life as she falls hard for a blue-haired graduate art student (Lea Seydoux).
Since its premiere this summer at Cannes, much of the buzz surrounding the movie has circled around the staggeringly explicit, 10-minute sex scene between the two actresses. But while that divisive bedroom romp combusts with an unprecedented, uncomfortable intimacy (expect to see every stray leg hair, every mole, every vein on their bodies as they twist and turn in a tangled mess of flesh), it's the affecting performance from Exarchopoulos (who, along with Seydoux, took home the Palme d'Or, the first time actors received the honor in addition to the director) that gets under your skin and lingers long after the credits roll.
To dub this a lesbian film or coming-of-age story would be reductive; Adele's is a tale with a univeral message that must bear repeating, the same one imparted to her by an aging club kid on one of her first nights out at a gay bar: "True love has no gender."