If you’ve ever wondered what a lesbian porn epic would look like, Blue is the Warmest Color is pretty damn close. But truly, it’s not pornographic: The film does include sex — lots of it — to tiltillate, but to provide context for what truly is an epic story of romantic love.

Adele (Adele Exarchapoulos, left) is a pretty teenager happily in her clique, talking about boys and school, when her eye catches Emma (Lea Seydoux), a blue-haired bohemian, on the street. Adele dates a boy, even has sex with him, but she fantasizes about Emma from just that momentary glance.

Months later, Adele spies Emma walking into a gay bar, follows her in, and they begin a deep relationship full of explicit sex, prosaic domestic life, family interaction (Emma is out to hers, Adele is not) and blossoming into their careers and, ultimately, the twists most relationships eventually take.

At three hours, Blue is the Warmest Color does push the limit of how long a movie like this should be, but the truth is — although it probably could drop 20 (even 40) minutes and still be excellent — director Abdellatif Kechiche has crafted a beautiful, literary and metaphor-rich portrait of love that has rarely been rivaled in scope. The length owes to him allowing the scenes to play out fully, luxuriating in the pain, angusih, confusion and woozy excitement of coming out and learning to love.

In that sense, it’s a “lesbian movie” only in a technical sense: You become so involved in these characters lives, made even more intimate by Kechiche’s close-ups of Exarchapoulos’ bee-stung lips and the faces of his cast, that you can’t look away.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Now playing at Landmark’s Magnolia and Angelika Plano.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 1, 2013.