2021, Audrey Diwan, France

Director: Audrey Diwan
Producers: Alice Girard, Edouard Weil
Screenplay: Marcia Romano, Audrey Diwan,
  based on the novel by Annie Ernaux
Cinematography: Laurent Tangy
Editor: Géraldine Mangenot
Music: Evgueni Galperine, Sacha Galperine
Anamaria Vartolomei (Anne Duchesne)
Kacey Mottet Klein (Jean)
Luàna Bajrami (Hélène)
Louise Orry-Diquéro (Brigitte)
Louise Chevillotte (Olivia)
Pio Marmaï (Professeur Bornec)
Sandrine Bonnaire (Gabrielle Duchesne)

Rating: R16 sex scenes, nudity, cruelty & content that may disturb Runtime: 99 minutes
Content note: Abortion

No less a filmmaking luminary as Bong Joon-ho presided over the jury of the Venice Film Festival in 2021, that awarded Happening its supreme accolade, the Golden Lion. That it was a film that dealt with a young woman seeking an abortion in 1960’s France (when it was still illegal) may have invited controversy in some spheres but in response to the award, French Lebanese director Audrey Diwan proclaimed “I did this movie with anger. I did it with desire, also my heart and my head. I wanted Happening to be an experience, a journey in the skin of this young woman.”

And indeed, it is a powerful and moving story based on a memoir by Nobel Laureate, Annie Ernaux, recounting when, as a star student, she discovers she is pregnant and must come to terms with how this will change her life – having a baby will almost certainly stop her from any opportunity of finding a career.

 As she seeks an abortion (with a prison term likely for any woman found to have had one), we’re taken through the crushing choices she must make, some of which can be incredibly painful to watch, although it is the indifference to her plight by those with the power to help (including her friends), that is perhaps even more painful to her. The camera remains close to Anamaria Vartolomei as Anne, capturing her plight as if already in a prison, making you feel her situation intensely even as she displays a stoicism in public that can be heartbreaking. Vartolomei is stunning in the central role, and holds your attention resolutely throughout the film.

Happening is a war film. Not in the sense that it’s a polemic (in interviews, Diwan has been firm that her decision to film Ernaux’s novel now is no comment on contemporary debates about abortion laws) but in the same way that the Dardenne brothers’ Rosetta (1999) is a war film. Both immerse us in a young woman’s panicked, urgent battle against the strictures of class and patriarchy, written on the female body.” Catherine Wheatley, Sight and Sound


Jun 17 2024


6:15 pm - 7:55 pm