Wednesday, October 12, 2022
Happening, aka L’événement, France 2021
Showtimes: 6:30 & 8:30 pm
Director: Audrey Diwan
Cast: Anamaria Vartolomei, Sandrine Bonnaire, Kacey Mottet Klein, Luana Bajrami
Running time: 100 minutes
Language: French with English subtitles
Content advisory: nudity, sexually suggestive scenes, disturbing content
César Awards: Most Promising Actress (Anamaria Vartolomei), Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards, Dublin International Film Festival: Best Actress; Venice Film Festival: Best Film, Director. Eight other wins, 13 nominations.
“Films don’t get any more timely than this French drama about an unwanted pregnancy. Anamaria Vartolomei is a revelation.”—James Verniere, Boston Herald
Happening is Audrey Diwan’s Golden Lion–winning adaptation of the 2001 novel by Annie Ernaux. The movie tells the story of Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei), a talented young woman in 1963 France who must choose whether or not to abort a pregnancy in order to finish her studies and escape the social constraints of a working-class family.
Set in an era and society where women’s desires, and sex in general, are censured, Happening’s protagonist must reconcile her own future and freedom with a decision that goes against the laws of the day. With exams around the corner and her pregnancy starting to show, Anne has precious little time to make her choice.
I want to continue my studies,” she tells another doctor. “It’s essential for me.”
Similar subject matter has been covered by the likes of Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and Eliza Hittman’s Never Sometimes Always Rarely illustrating the human toll exacted by systems that give women little choice when faced with an unwanted pregnancy. What distinguishes Happening, Diwan’s second feature film, is Laurent Tangy’s tightly composed cinematography and Vartolomei’s riveting, steely performance.
Happening closely details not just Anne’s navigation of social taboos and restrictions but captures her unapologetic determination. It’s a movie about abortion, but it’s also a coming-of-age tale about a woman’s resolve.
There’s no intimacy or pleasure for Anne’s body. It’s a battleground. Anne is in a kind of war, with seemingly no one on her side. Anne grows increasingly isolated but also hardened and defiant up to Happening’s harrowing climax.