On movie sex and movie love...

Category: 2010s

Blue is the Warmest Colour

or La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 et 2

  • YEAR: 2013
  • DIRECTOR: Abdellatif Kechiche
  • KEY ACTORS: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux
  • IMDB SCORE: 7.7


✔️ It does pass the Bechdel test – the two main characters are women and the main relationship is between the two of them!

✔️ The cast are definitely fuckable. I’m straight but there’s no denying that they are both beautiful and incredibly hot together.

❌ I can’t say that it inspired fantasies though. I’m not that curious about having sex with someone with a vulva so while I admired how hot their sex was, it wasn’t something that I fantasised about afterwards.

✔️ The rewatchable question is a difficult one. It is three hours long. And as an English speaker, it is entirely in subtitles. But, wow, it was engrossing and the time seemed to fly by! And I would definitely watch it again so, yes, rewatchable!

✔️ And it is sex positive. Sex is an important part of their relationship and, while there are some sex negative moments with homophobia and slut shaming, they are clearly positioned as wrong and damaging.

As always, this contains spoilers so watch the film before you read on…

STREAMING: YouTube (from £2.99). For a full list of streaming options, check out JustWatch.com

[Content warning: homophobia, gaslighting]

Poster for Blue is the Warmest Colour

I’ve been putting off watching Blue is the Warmest Colour. It’s just so long! At roughly 3 hours, it is a daunting undertaking on its own without even considering that it has subtitles and, well, I was never quite in the right mood to watch it.

I’ve also been putting off watching it for this blog as I’m worried that I’m not the right person to watch and review it from a sex and relationships perspective. Blue is the Warmest Colour is famously a lesbian love story that contains a frankly notorious extended sex scene, and much of the criticism I’ve read concerned this scene. Is it porny? Does it realistically show sex between two people with vulvas? Is it a good portrayal of a lesbian relationship? Did the cis male director produce a film that simply followed his cis male gaze and his heterosexual fantasises of two women fucking? And as I’m a straight cis woman with no bicuriosity and I don’t watch porn, can I really talk about this movie with any authority?

The answer is probably no, but I really loved Blue is the Warmest Colour so I hope you won’t mind if I do try to write about it anyway! And, obviously, let me know if my cishetero privilege is showing – I’m always happy to learn from my mistakes.

Blue is the Warmest Colour is the story of Adèle (Exarchopoulos) – the French title translates to ‘The Life of Adèle, Chapters 1 and 2’ – who is a young woman in her last year of school. She falls in love with Emma (Seydoux), a slightly older art student and they have a highly charged, intensely emotional and hugely sexual relationship that later falls apart with as much energy and charge and emotion.

Adele and Emma kissing in Blue is the Warmest Colour

And that’s basically the plot. It’s simply the story of a relationship, from beginning to end, and I worry that much of the intrigue around Blue is the Warmest Colour stems from the fact that it was about *whispers* lesbians. While it is undoubtably a beautiful movie, would it be talked about in the same way if it was about a heterosexual relationship? When seen from that perspective, the story itself is almost a cliche – a young woman is shown the joys of sex by an older, wiser man and falls in love with him, only to feel excluded from his creative life. Left to do all the cooking and feeling lost and lonely, she strays. When her cheating is discovered, her lover kicks her out, making her feel guilty for the betrayal without ever acknowledging their own flaws, and the young woman has to start all over again. But while this is a very familiar story, it is not usually told as a queer story.

I feel that this is one of Blue is the Warmest Colour’s huge strengths. It cannot be denied that the promise of lesbian sex would have attracted a lot of curiosity and there is a reason why it played such a big part of the movie’s marketing, but the relationship was otherwise quite, well, normal, for want of a better word, which cannot often be said about homosexual relationships on screen. Ashton Cooper’s article for Jezebel was one of very few critical responses that I read from someone who is actually queer, and they agree: ‘mainstream portrayals of lesbians often feel overdetermined. We’re not watching people fall in love; we’re watching them BE LESBIANS. That is not the case in Blue. I have never seen a portrayal of a lesbian relationship on screen that captures the experience as truthfully as this film has.’

Is there something intrinsically different about queer relationships? Of course, society places very different pressures on them and queer people do face systemic discrimimation in ways that heterosexual people do not, but is the love between them and the internal workings of their relationships different from that of straight couples? I didn’t think it was and neither did Julie Morah, who wrote the original graphic novel. She has said that she has always been interested in the ‘banalisation of homosexuality’, hoping that making queer relationships more mainstream and ‘normal’ would stop LGBT+ people become targets of abuse.

And Adèle and Emma do have a ‘normal’ relationship that breaks down just as relationships sometimes do. More, I was fascinated to see what was essentially a patriarchal relationship occurring in a queer partnership between two women. I am sorry if I am incorrectly overlaying my cishetero perspective onto their relationship, but I kind of loved that there was so much about the problems within their relationship that was relatable and familiar. Which is exactly how it should be! Love is love is love and I believe that the wide variety in relationship types and styles extends into queer relationships too, rather than queer love being a category on its own.

And so I felt really sorry for Adèle as I don’t believe her relationship with Emma was healthy. At the beginning, she was the ingénue, innocent to the ways of the world and needing someone to show her the way, and she never recovered any sort of equality with Emma. She meets her for the first time in a lesbian bar and has to be told that she’s accidentally ordered a ‘bulldyke beer.’ Outside of their sexuality, Emma teaches Adèle about philosophy and art, but there was no suggestion that Adèle taught Emma anything in return. Adèle’s desire to be a teacher is secondary, emphasised by Emma’s insistence that Adèle is a writer when, in fact, all Adèle has written is her personal diary. I can only assume Emma has read this, hopefully with consent, but it is clear that she thinks Adèle should be more than just a teacher, even though that is Adèle’s dream job.

Adele as a teacher

Emma simply didn’t listen to Adèle or pay any attention to her desires. As another example, Adèle is admired for her ‘voracious’ appetite but doesn’t eat shellfish – something Emma forgets and just laughs off when Adèle is invited to meet her first girlfriend’s parents for the first time and is confronted by an entirely shellfish-based feast. Adèle eats it anyway rather than be awkward in refusing but I really resented Emma’s dismissal of Adèle’s preferences. It was a huge red flag for me!

And regardless of whether the culprit presents as a woman or not, this *is* patriarchal. Emma considers herself to be more important than Adèle and so Adèle has to fit into a lesser position. Blue is the Warmest Colour emphasises this structure at Emma’s party when the movie jumps forward a few years – Emma works the room, having erudite conversations with her friends, while Adèle does all of the cooking and preparation, serving food and topping up drinks, having turned down an invitation from her own friends – colleagues even, does Adèle have her own friends? Adèle isn’t her own person; she is there to support Emma, be her ‘muse and inspiration.’

I also felt that there was a definite suggestion that Emma was gaslighting Adèle. (I really didn’t like Emma!) Adèle ends up cheating on Emma when she goes out alone as a response to being left home alone while Emma stays out late with Lise, a friend from the art world. Emma and Lise have previously been seen chatting conspiratorially and sitting too close to be just friends, mirroring the accusations Adèle’s school friends throw at her earlier in the movie, but when Emma discovers Adèle’s infidelity, she goes ballistic, calling her a whore and a slut and throwing her out of the house. Did Adèle’s indiscretion touch a nerve? Because, of course, when they meet up years later, Emma is living with Lise. They did get together, just as Adèle feared. Cool, cool, cool, cool…

While Blue is the Warmest Colour is a very long film, it didn’t feel that long when I was watching it as it seemed an appropriate length of time for the story that was trying to be told. The emotional highs and lows wouldn’t have felt so high or so low without having committed the time to the relationship that the movie asks us to. And I believe that the focus on sex was also important to help us understand them as a couple. I really believed that they had incredible sex and I understood perhaps why Adèle stayed when she was otherwise so miserable: ‘the sex mainly served to illustrate the bond between the two women so that their eventual relationship problems carried an element of intensity that viewers could understand in intimate detail.

Of course, the sex scenes are also important because they are the source of much of the controversy surrounding Blue is the Warmest Colour.

Most of the criticism surrounds the fact that the film was directed by a straight cis man and both of the actors were straight cis women. They were filming something of which they had no personal experience and, according to Julie Morah, this was obvious: ‘this was what was missing on the set: lesbians.’ She felt that the straight attempt to show lesbian sex ended up looking like ‘a brutal surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex, which turned into porn and made everyone feel ill at ease…The heteronormative laughed because they don’t understand it and find the scene ridiculous. The gay and queer people laughed because it’s not convincing at all, and find it ridiculous.’ Even Exarchopoulos, who played Adèle, stated that she was ‘not that familiar with lesbian sex.

A close up of Adele and Emma as they are about to kiss from Blue is the Warmest Colour

And I think that’s were the main complaints originate – if Kechiche wasn’t filming real, accurate sex between two people with vulvas, what did he think he was filming and where did he get his inspiration? Lesbian porn? Or his own fantasies? Manohla Dargis from the New York Times felt that the focus on arses and open mouths and splayed bodies was more representative of ‘Kechiche’s desires than anything else,’ commenting that ‘Abdellatif Kechiche, I realized fairly quickly, likes a tight end.

And Kechiche hasn’t tried to allay concerns about his male gaze when filming Blue is the Warmest Colour. In an interview with Flicks and Bits, a film website that now seems to have been deleted but which is quoted in a number of the reviews, Kechiche said that he was filming what he found beautiful: ‘we shot them like paintings, like sculptures. We spent a lot of time lighting them to ensure they would look beautiful.’ Unfortunately, this is the definition of objectification and shows that Kechiche chose to portray the two women in an idealised fashion, exacerbating the sense of voyeurism we feel in watching and focussing a male gaze. Adèle and Emma are seen ‘in decorative, artistic poses [rather] than in the wild, messy jumble of mouths and limbs we expect’ and, as Michelle Juergen wrote for Salon, this ‘artistic rendering effectively creates a perspective reminiscent of Lolita: we are not meant to know the characters; we are meant to watch them, to admire them, and to idealise them.’ To quote art critic John Berger, ‘Men look at women, women watch themselves being looked at.’ Again, cool, cool, cool, cool…

The first scene when Adèle was wanking was first time that I believed those critics that felt the sex was too much like porn and like a cis man’s fantasy. Personally, I don’t expose my own breasts when masturbating, gaining the same pleasure from reaching beneath my shirt, and I don’t arch my back as if I’m displaying my body to someone watching. Adèle’s wanking technique really did look like she was wanking for show, as if it were porn, and didn’t match the positions that women actually choose when masturbating.

As for the rest of the sex, I’m less sure. I know it was hot. I know it looked like a lot of fun! And yes, the women were incredibly beautiful and it was incredibly stylish but I’m tempted to conclude that Kechiche didn’t get it all wrong. Perhaps its simply because there isn’t enough vulva-on-vulva sex on screen in general but I was expecting it to be worse! Cooper from Jezebel felt that ‘the sex in Blue is more similar to the sex I have than any other lesbian sex I’ve ever seen on screen’ They did criticise ‘his preoccupation with scissoring…not because some lesbians don’t like scissoring, but because it seems to be the go-to position for people who have no idea how two women might have sex aside from rubbing their junk against one another.

But I think that’s OK. I think any issues that I have with the male gaze and the fact that this lesbian story has been made for a straight audience are diluted by the fact that it is a queer story that has been made for the mainstream. As Manohla Dargis reminded us, ‘feminists have taken issues with old Hollywood representations of women, but at least its star system provided a rich body of work…[Blue is the Warmest Colour] is a three-hour movie about women, a rare object of critical inquiry perhaps especially for American men working in the male-dominated field of movie critics.’ People did start to talk about feminist and queer issues because of this film!

Adele looking sad in Blue is the Warmest Colour

And Blue is the Warmest Colour was very successful! It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and has a notoriety that means people will be watching it for years to come. And don’t forget that it was given the Palme d’Or ‘just hours after masses of French demonstrators poured into the streets of Paris to protest France’s new law allowing same-sex marriage and adoption.’ Homophobia was still an issue in 2013 and it is still an issue now. We do need more queer represention on screen. So when that mainstream audience sees Blue is the Warmest Colour, they’ll see a film that shows an LGBT+ coming of age and the difficulties that can entail, but they’ll also see a common or garden relationship. They’ll see that this queer relationship ‘isn’t quite so “queer” as they may have thought.’ And I do feel that that is progressive and it’s wonderful.


Oh, I so nearly forgave Kechiche for being such a man behind a camera until I discovered that he was actually just a massive dick, who also had a camera.

Both Exarchopoulos and Seydoux have said that they won’t work with Kechiche again . They described the experience of making the film as abusive. Talk of repetitive takes and endless reshooting reminded me of the worst of Kubrick and when Kechiche described the role of an actor as ‘one of a spoiled child,’ I had flashbacks of the abuse Adrian Lyne inflicted on Kim Basinger in Nine ½ Weeks. I was also more than a little freaked out to discover that Adèle wasn’t originally the name of Exarchopoulos’s character – Kechiche used so much footage taken when Exarchopoulos was relaxing out of character that he had to change her character name to explain why so many people were calling her Adèle. Which is just creepy.

And that’s before we come to how Kechiche chose to film the sex scenes. Since the fall out from #MeToo, it has become much more common to use an ‘intimacy coordinator’ such as Ita O’Brien to make actors more comfortable with intimate scenes. O’Brien emphasises that sex scenes should be choreographed as closely as fight scenes to prevent actors from accidentally crossing boundaries or becoming uncomfortable, but this was not Kechiche’s style. Exarchopoulos told the Daily Beast that he had specifically wanted to shoot without choreography and her words almost make it sound like he’d wanted them to actually have sex, describing how he’d wanted the scenes to be ‘more like special sex scenes…once we were on the shoot, I realized that he really wanted us to give him everything. Most people don’t even dare to ask the things that he did.’ Exarchopoulos and Seydoux had only just met. They had no chance to become comfortable with each other before they were thrown into a 10 day shoot when they were naked and touching each other. Apparently they had prostheses over their actual genitals but, really. Reading their experiences was honestly horrifying and I think they were being quite restrained when they described the shoot as ‘horrible.’

Emma, looking upset, from Blue is the Warmest Colour

And it has ruined Blue is the Warmest Colour for me. I had marvelled at the raw emotion that Seydoux and Exarchopoulos produced, the pain in their final fight and their emotional exhaustion by the end of the movie, but I fear it wasn’t all acting and that adds a layer of discomfort to the viewing that isn’t needed. Did Seydoux need to hit Exarchopoulos so many times to ensure that her slap in their break up packed that powerful emotional punch, or could they have achieved that same effect long before the 100th take? We’ll never know. But I fear that that’s why Spielberg insisted that all three of them – Exarchopoulos, Seydoux and Kechiche – were honoured with the Palme d’Or, rather than just the director as is usual practice.

They’d earned it.


Copyright All stills and photos are sourced from MovieStillsDB and CineMaterial, and are the courtesy of their respective production studios and/or distribution companies. Images are intended for educational or editorial use only.

Boy Meets Girl

  • YEAR: 2014
  • DIRECTOR: Eric Schaeffer
  • KEY ACTORS: Michael Welch, Michelle Hensley
  • CERTIFICATE: unrated in UK, R in USA
  • IMDB SCORE: 7.1

I’m so excited to be hosting this guest post! Quinn Rhodes (ze/hir) is an absolutely incredible trans blogger who writes really excellent and passionate posts about hir explorations with gender, kink and hir sexuality. Hir erotica is also smoking hot!! I asked Quinn to chose a movie that contains a trans character or was about trans themes, and ze surpassed my expectations by picking a perfect film – one that is new to me and one that shows a much more positive trans experience than most. Boy Meets Girl is fantastic and I am so pleased that ze introduced me to it. Find Quinn on Twitter @OnQueerStreet


✔️ It does pass the Bechdel Test! There are several conversations where there are only women on screen and they’re talking about themselves…though a lot of the time they are rather obsessed with the main character’s junk.

✔️ It is rewatchable! Admittedly, this was the first time I’ve watched Boy Meets Girl and even in the six years since it came out it hasn’t aged especially well in some aspects (more on that later), but it’s definitely a film I’ll be going back to.

✔️ Of course I want to fuck the cast! Michelle Hensley is incredibly hot and I forgive the unrealistic sex scenes (when they start fucking outside by a river in the middle of the night and then we cut to them in a bed the next morning) because she is so fucking sexy in them.

✔️ It also inspires fantasies! I am definitely going to have to spend more time thinking about the sex that the film obviously doesn’t show us, lest it be cast as porn, and trying to work out what some of the things the characters whisper to each other before they fuck could be.

✔️ I’d also say that it was sex positive! I think any film that shows two women having “the talk” before they have sex about previous partners and safe sex practices definitely can be counted as extremely sex positive, even if I would never describe talking about those things in that way.

As always, this contains spoilers so watch the film before you read on…

STREAMING: Amazon Prime (free with subscription, or rent for £2.99, buy £6.99). For a full list of streaming options, check out JustWatch.com

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YEAR: 2013
DIRECTOR: Spike Jonze
KEY ACTORS: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson

❌ Sadly, this film fails the Bechdel Test. Even without asking if the OS have a gender, none of the named female presenting characters talk about anything but men.
✔️ It did inspire fantasies of what our sexual future could be and how technology could influence the sexual relationships we might have. Also fantasies of super hot phone sex!
✔️ And I do think it is sex positive. The science fiction setting allows stigma, personhood, sexual agency and consent to be examined and it does a pretty good job of it. It’s not perfect but it’s pretty good!
✔️ It raises so many questions in my mind that I do think it is rewatchable.
✔️ And I would fuck the cast. Not Joaquin Phoenix so much but I’d love to have phone sex with Samantha. Scarlett Johansson has such a deeply sexy voice after all!

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YEAR: 2018
DIRECTOR: Wash Westmoreland
KEY ACTORS: Keira Knightley, Dominic West

✔️ This movie is rewatchable. It’s beautiful and funny and interesting, and I definitely want to watch it again!
✔️ It’s easily sex positive. There are feminist issues, certainly, but all the characters have a level of sexual freedom and acceptance of each other’s needs that is admirable and not always present in relationships, even today.
✔️ It also has no problem passing the Bechdel Test. Colette and Missy talk a lot about subjects that don’t involve men, as do Colette and the other women she meets in the Paris salon scene, who are handily introduced to her when she meets them!
✔️ I would also fuck the cast without much hesitation. I have carried a torch for Dominic West since The Wire, which even a dodgy goatee and a dodgier personality can’t entirely extinguish, but Keira Knightley is the star. Colette is witty and intelligent, and Knightley gives her a spark that is frankly irresistible!
❌ But narrowly missing a 5/5 score, it didn’t inspire fantasies. Hot as they may look, I’m not gay so the lesbian love scenes didn’t inspire me beyond wanting hot sex in general, and the dress up scenes with Dominic West were definitely on the creepy end of the hot-or-not scale…

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Gone Girl

YEAR: 2014
DIRECTOR: David Fincher
KEY ACTORS: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike

✔️Rewatchable. God, is it rewatchable. I can’t drag my eyes away.
✔️And it passes the Bechdel Test. Admittedly, much of the talk between named female characters is about Amy but it passes the rest!
❌ But I do not want to fuck either of them, no matter how hot they are! They’re terrifying and deeply, deeply unattractive because of it.
❌ And there’s nothing here to prompt fantasies for me. It’s messed up!
❌ Finally, it’s not sex positive at all. Sex is a weapon; relationships are a lie. It’s. Messed. Up!

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Death Proof

YEAR: 2007
DIRECTOR: Quentin Tarantino
KEY ACTORS: Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Rose McGowan

✔️ Easily passes the Bechdel test – it’s a Tarantino script so there is a lot of talking about, well, everything and there are eight key female characters so it definitely passes.
❌ I’m going to say not rewatchable – I bought it when it came out but the DVD was deep in the cellar so I clearly didn’t watch it that often!
I don’t want to fuck the cast – they’re hot but no. They’re not real enough!
❌ And no, not sex positive. The women may chat easily and freely about sex and appear to enjoy full and consensual sex lives…but they’re either brutally murdered or have to kill to avoid brutal murder. It doesn’t take much psychoanalysis to see a problem here!
✔️ BUT, this film did inspire sexual fantasies. Unexpectedly so. It’s the lap dance scene. It’s just so hot!

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The Before trilogy

YEAR: Sunrise 1995, Sunset 2004, Midnight 2013
DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater
KEY ACTORS: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
IMDB SCORE: Sunrise 8.1, Sunset 8.0, Midnight 7.9
ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE: Sunrise 100%, Sunset 95%, Midnight 97%

SEX SCORE: 4.5/5
✔️ Definitely rewatchable – and I’d recommend watching the full trilogy in one sitting if you can.
✔️ The cast are definitely fuckable. Julie Delpy is all sorts of fantastic and although there is something, well, weaselly about Ethan Hawke, the chemistry between them is so hot that I still want him despite his somewhat wiry facial hair!
✔️ And these movies did inspire lots of fantasies – meeting a hot stranger on a train, fucking in a park, missing a plane home because I needed to fuck someone right there and then…
✔️ On balance, I think these movies are sex positive. This is mainly as there isn’t much sex negativity so it gets a mark by default!
❓ Only Before Midnight passes…but it’s the only one with more than two named characters after all. The films are so focused on those two characters that this test feels, well, irrelevant.

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Easy A

YEAR: 2010
DIRECTOR: Will Gluck
KEY ACTORS: Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson

SEX SCORE: 4.5/5
✔️ Easily passes the Bechdel test, particularly if you consider conversations about sexual reputation as separate from conversations about men and dating
✔️ Definitely rewatchable. In fact, I watch it approximately twice a year!
✔️ I do want to fuck the cast, yes. And by that I mean that I want to fuck Stanley Tucci.
❓ This film didn’t inspire any sexual fantasies…but Emma Stone in those corsets certainly inspired me to get off my arse and do more exercise! Wanting to look more like her was one of my main inspirations for starting running, for buying more fancy underwear, for buying corsets so I’m giving it a half mark!
✔️ And I am giving it a whole mark for sex positivity. There is a lot of shame directed towards sexual characters but the film goes out of its why to show why they are wrong. It also manages to find humour in varied sexuality choices and sexual situations without mocking or judging. It’s wonderful!

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Magic Mike XXL

YEAR: 2015
DIRECTOR: Gregory Jacobs
KEY ACTORS: Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Andie MacDowell, Jada Pinkett-Smith
IMDB SCORE: 5.6/10


✔️ So, so rewatchable – over and over again…
✔️ Easily passes the Bechdel test – I read one comment that suggested this was deliberate but that feels like progress rather than criticism!
✔️ Sex and pleasure positive – the whole film is about how to please women and I’m sold!
✔️ Wow, the cast are ridiculously fuckable – watch the film and tell me I’m wrong.
No ongoing fantasies – it’s only really when caught up in the film’s literal magic that I find it hot as that level of muscle isn’t normally my thing, but what a testament to the film that it works so well at the time!

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Fifty Shades of Grey

YEAR: 2015
DIRECTOR: Sam Taylor-Johnson
KEY ACTORS: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan
IMDB SCORE: 4.1/10


✔️ Passes the Bechdel test – if you can believe it!
Definitely not sex positive – oh my gosh, the shame that is built into this plot! It is so clear that EL James is not a kinkster.
Unfuckable cast – Jamie Dornan is undoubtably hot but Christian is such a knob that I would never want to fuck him. Dakota Johnson’s Ana, maybe, but only if she leaves Christian and discovers her sexuality without his toxic influence.
No fantasies – see above.
Unwatchable – I’ll listen to the soundtrack. I don’t need to see this again and I’m not rushing to see the sequels.

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