This moving and impressively understated drama about the choices women are entitled to make about their own bodies feels timelier than ever.
Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) is 23 years old and a student. She vies an academic career, but a brief flirtation with a fellow student finds her pregnant. At a time when she needs the consolation of friends and family, she finds none. After all, this is 1963. Abortion is illegal in France and married or not, no matter the feelings of the mother or the circumstances in which a child will grow up, the only course seemingly open to Anne is to give birth.
Audrey Diwan’s shattering film profits from an unwillingness to sensationalise Anne’s journey. Wisely opting for simmering drama over melodrama, Happening charts Anne’s sense of despondency as she finds no solace in those close to her and figures in power – almost entirely men – tell her what she should do. A powerful film at any time, Happening feels particularly resonant at this moment, as access to abortion is increasingly curtailed. That said, Diwan’s film steers clear of politics. Instead, through its focus on Anne’s plight, the film asks whether the right to control the fate of one’s body should be anyone’s but ours.