Sundance Review: Happening

Mother and daughter

As the US Supreme Court continues to push back women’s rights in Texas by decades, it’s worth remembering that abortion has only been legal in the country for less than fifty years. When it comes to a woman’s right to choose, Europe has been little better and often much worse. In France, it became legal in 1975, which was far too late for countless women who had to risk their lives in order to live them. Happening follows one such story.

1963, France. Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) is a hardworking and determined English Literature student who is excited about what the future holds. Then, one day, her life comes crashing down around her after discovering that she’s pregnant. However, abortion is a crime punishable by jail, for those committing or abetting it. Anne desperately tries to find a solution but is left with no option but to take matters into her own hands.

Happening is a difficult and powerful drama which needs to be seen. Adapted from Annie Ernaux’s memoirs, it’s a decidedly personal and unrelenting story of a young women driven by heightening desperation. The period detail and feel of Audrey Diwan’s is impressive, as is the way she steadily charts Anne’s struggle. However, it wouldn’t work without a fearless and assured performance from Vartolomei. She’s the beating heart of Happening, which deservedly won the Golden Lion at Venice.

Happening screens at Sundance Film Festival.


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