GFF22 Review: Happening

By Rachel Cronin

4.5 stars

Audrey Diwan’s latest triumph is a sensual interpretation of the French Novel L’événement by Annie Ernaux. Devastatingly raw, this intimate exploration of sexual identity recounts Ernaux’s frantic search for a survivable illegal abortion in 1960’s France.

Happening promotional poster

Anne (based on Annie Ernaux herself) embarks a perilous journey to finding a way to abort her unwanted foetus as she tries to navigate her life as normal, knowing that she is at risk of prison or even death if she succeeds in finding an abortionist.

The 2022 Glasgow Film Festival Gala film is not for the faint-of-heart and is certified at 15 with graphic scenes of the abortion procedure that may be uncomfortable for some viewers. However, creating a raw and solid portrayal of the pain and turmoil of illegal abortion was central for Diwan, who explained in a post-screening Q&A that she didn’t want the audience to simply watch Anne, but to be her.

After significant barter, Diwan won over sibling composers Evgueni and Sascha Galperine to accompany this political piece of cinema with their suspenseful score, an artistic decision that only launches the film further to its well-deserved success.

The incredible Anamaria Vartolomei possesses Ernaux’s young character beautifully and is more than fitting to the part. As Diwan explained ‘Anamaria just walked into the audition, and she just was Anne already.’

The dreamy cinematography of a picturesque 60’s France (curtesy of Laurent Tangy) paired with the growing tension of the film’s music as we progress further into Anne’s pregnancy paint the sometimes hopeless, always complex picture of life as a woman in a country on the edge of a sexual revolution.

Happening is an absolute must-see for feminists, French lovers, and anyone interested in the subject of women’s rights.