‘Happening’ Review: An Abortion Story, An Existential Drama


His body, his choice, his life. This is the clear refrain from “Happening,” a powerful French drama about a woman who wants to have an abortion. Arriving in the USA at a rough moment in the early 1960s, at a time when procedure was criminalized in France, The Supreme Court apparently decided in Roe v. Ready to take down Wade. When I first watched the movie, it still felt like a warning shot from a far country. Now he feels the urgency of the moment.

The world seems full of possibilities for Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei, restrained and deeply empathetic), a 23-year-old student attending school in the southwest. There, he lives in a women’s dormitory, hangs out with his friends and sometimes goes to a bar with them, where he drinks, flirts, and has fun in rock ‘n’ roll. Sometimes she visits her timid but loving parents (Sandrine Bonnaire plays her mother), who owns a bistro, a welcoming space where she lives freely while chatting with customers or studying in the back. But Anne’s horizons go beyond her family’s. She wants to continue her education. She wants to write she.

Director Audrey Diwan invites you to a life that begins to blossom, making you want the same for Anne. With visual intimacy, calm rhythms and a delicate touch, Diwan traces its textures and rituals, attends lectures and captures the intellectual hum. Anne and her friends discuss Camus and Sartre day after day. But later, when their talk turns into sex, these young, talented women stutter and even panic, and—just because they’re young and alive—the tangible warmth they arouse turns into an oppressive fog. It might help if they’re studying Beauvoir, but it’s not in the curriculum.

It is based on the short, impressionistic memoir of the same name by the famous French writer. Anne Ernaux“Happening” chronicles what it is like to be a young woman whose life is changed by an unwanted pregnancy in 1963 and whose world is ominously narrowed. In his book (published in 2000), Ernaux oscillates between the past and the present, often commenting on what he was doing and feeling decades ago. Her approach highlights the tension between the two time periods and distinctly drawn subjects of the memories, but at the same time emotionally dissolves the past: Young Annie struggles under the cold, intellectual, brooding gaze of her older self.



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