Jacob’s review published on Letterboxd:
It's nearly impossible to review this film without writing about the sex scenes, and that's part of the problem. In depicting the intensity of first love, it's reasonable to present sex with a similar intensity, yet the duration and graphic nature of the sex scenes is so great that they pull focus from the rest of the narrative. Additionally, these scenes do nothing to propel the narrative forward, resulting in an uncomfortable, albeit arousing, stagnation. For a film that's already three full hours, any scenes of stagnation are doubly egregious, particularly ones that were hell for the actors to shoot.
Chemistry is everything in selling a romance as authentic, and the performances here are phenomenal. Both Exarchopoulos and Seydoux fully commit to their roles, showing such intense emotion that it often became uncomfortable to watch. The moments of heartbreak are devastating, and I will not deny this film its exceptional ability to evoke emotion. I loved watching these two fall in love, and the intimate cinematography just elevated the closeness already present. Some of their conversations were fascinating, and it was scenes like those I could have watched endlessly. Unfortunately, Kechiche chose to spend time in less captivating areas.
As I previously mentioned, this film is rather long, yet it so often feels rushed. So much goes undiscussed and underdeveloped, especially with respect to the gay elements. First love is first love, but same sex couples experience love differently. Adele's friends make a handful of homophobic remarks, and she goes to a gay bar with one of them, but this doesn't ring true to what I and many others feel to be the queer experience. Kechiche is ultimately just guessing what gay couples experience, and it often reads that way. Some have argued that the sex scenes are invaluable as rare depictions of lesbian sex in cinema, but even more people have argued that Kechiche's presentation and treatment of his young actresses does far more harm than good. It's a love story, and it's gay, but I'm not sure how well it holds up as a story of specifically gay love.
There are moments of this film I truly adore, and several that I find beautiful. It has its merits, but it also has a great deal of flaws, the largest being that it often becomes aimless and mistreats its characters. Many critics describe this film as sexy, but the first word that comes to my mind is exhausting. Three hours is a lot of movie to take in, and in this case, it may be just too much.