Happening: a movie review by Alex First

April 13, 2022 by Alex First
Read on for article

Happening 90 mins: France in 1963 was a place where abortion was a dirty word. In short, it was illegal.

Happening is a harrowing tale about a highly intelligent literature student who unexpectedly falls pregnant and has to keep it a secret for fear of what could happen to her.

Her name is Anne Duchesne (Anamaria Vartolomei) and she is 23.

She hangs around with her gal pals, Brigitte (Louise Orry-Diquero) and Helene (Luana Bajrami) and like others their age they talk about boys.

Then when her period doesn’t come on time Anne pays a visit to a doctor, only to discover – much to her alarm (although by then she suspects it) – that she is carrying a child.

At that stage she is only three weeks into her pregnancy.

We follow Anne’s frantic endeavours to find a solution to her “problem” in the weeks and months that follow.

She lives in a dorm and visits her parents regularly, but she can’t tell them that she is pregnant because anyone who aids Anne’s endeavours to abort faces jailtime, so even her closest friends abandon her.

The guy who knocked her up in a casual encounter is no help and a male friend tries to take advantage of the situation.

Anne’s studies, that she is so desperate to continue, suffer.

YouTube player

Her literary professor Bornec (Pio Marmai), who saw her as a fellow teacher in future, now can’t see her passing her university entrance exams.

When he asks what is going on, she refuses to tell him.

As she reaches the 10 and then 12-week mark, Anne’s options have almost closed entirely.

She feels increasingly isolated and abandoned.

Happening is a compelling movie, but a very difficult watch.

Anamaria Vartolomei is superb in the lead role, displaying the full range of emotions.

We feel her frustration and fear, and metaphorically ride every bump.

We see her mood shift as door after door closes.

I also appreciated the slice of life representation of the dutiful professor by Pio Marmai.

His character tries to understand what is going on, but retains a professional distance.

Based on a novel by Annie Ernaux about her own experiences, director and co-writer Audrey Diwan has given the film an appropriately claustrophobic feel.

She has done a fine job “trapping” Anne and then tightening the screws.

In so doing, she has also commented on the rigid rules that constrained women at that time.

This is dour, intelligent filmmaking that doesn’t let up from start to finish.

Winner of the Golden Lion at Venice last year, there is much to appreciate about the way the subject matter is handled, as loathsome as what appears on screen may be.

And a warning, some of it is not at all pretty.

Rated R, Happening scores an 8½ out of 10.


Speak Your Mind

Comments received without a full name will not be considered
Email addresses are NEVER published! All comments are moderated. J-Wire will publish considered comments by people who provide a real name and email address. Comments that are abusive, rude, defamatory or which contain offensive language will not be published

Got something to say about this?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.