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REVIEW: L’Événement (Happening)

L'Événement (Happening) Review

L’Événement (aka Happening) is a 2021 French film set in the 1960s centred around young student Anne, who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. Unable to access a legal abortion (abortion remained illegal in France until 1975), Anne is left to beg doctors to help, try to find help amongst friends and at times turn to dangerous self-abortion methods in order to terminate the unwanted pregnancy.

Anamaria Vartolomei is phenomenal in the lead role of Anne, unapologetic, confident and terrified, if there was an award at this year’s Venice Film Festival for best withering looks, she would surely win it. Incredibly natural, she is able to embody intense maturity alongside sheer wilful ignorance as she refuses to accept her apparent fate and acknowledge that she is with child.

L'Événement (Happening)

The film feels timely and powerful, with many audience members commenting on the recent changes to Texas legislation as we left the screening. Though a decidedly period piece, the film is shockingly timely, feeling important and necessary.

It’s important to add that, as with a lot of French cinema, this film does not shy away from the taboo or shocking. There are scenes and depictions of attempted abortion which may be too confronting for a mainstream audience. The depiction of these scenes and shots feels inherently divisive, but also valid and earned. The scenes are traumatic but ultimately realistic, as is the plight faced by Anne in the film. The inclusion of these is shocking and many in my screening could be heard audibly shifting, seen turning away and avoiding eye contact with the medical procedure happening on-screen – interestingly enough, a majority male press screening.

L'Événement (Happening)

Whilst the few small instances of these scenes are confronting (but again, incredibly important and earned within the film), L’Événement is beautifully filmed, flowing effortlessly through the 12 week period within which it is set.

Director Audrey Diwan uses natural locations, close-ups of Anne’s face and an eloquent edit allow the film to breeze past, all set to a sparingly used score. Likewise, she is confident in her casts abilities, with Luàna Bajrami reprising a similar role to her appearance as Sophie in Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Quiet, unassuming but surprisingly knowing, the whole supporting cast bring care, compassion and judgement to Vartolomei’s Anne in equal measure.

L’Événement (Happening) will not be for everyone but feels like an important film during a time of political upheaval for women all over the world.

The film won the Golden Lion at the 78th Venice Film Festival this week where it has its world premiere. There is no UK release date currently set, though it will release in France in February 2022.

Happening Drama | 100min | February 2, 2022 (France) 5.5
Director: Audrey DiwanWriter: Marcia Romano, Audrey Diwan, Annie ErnauxStars: Anamaria Vartolomei, Kacey Mottet Klein, Luàna BajramiSummary: An adaptation of Annie Ernaux's eponymous novel, looking back on her experience with abortion when it was still illegal in France in the 1960s.

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Clare Brunton

Ex film teacher and frequent couch potato. I try and see at least one new release a week, but I've somehow got to 30 without having seen The Godfather?