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  • Writer's pictureWill Scarbrough

Review: Happening

This is the story of Anne, a young woman who decides to abort to finish her studies and escape the social constraints of a working-class family. France in 1963: a society that censures women's desires. And sex in general. This simple but cruel story follows the itinerary of a woman who decides to go against the law. Anne has only a little time before her. Her exams are just around the corner, and her baby bump is growing fast.

Anamaria Vartolomei, Kacey Mottet Klein, Luàna Bajrami & Louise Orry-Diquéro.

Happening is tough, it’s claustrophobic and tight with its cinematography. Very rarely allowing you to breathe & take a moment, its lack of score creates an intense feeling of anxiety and realism. Never holding back from its nudity and graphic presence, which is complimented perfectly by Anamaria Vartolomei awfully authentic performance full of sympathy and innocence.

It’s a tough topic explored empathically, always close to character’s face, giving the audience only what they can interpret going on in each character’s mind. The lack of score for many scenes ground it in utter realism, yet so beautiful, which I suppose comes with films being set in France. The story is entirely told through visual storytelling, but, that does tend to limit the film in its emotional exploration. It rarely has interpretive shots to expand its great storytelling, but rather comes through its dialogue & close ups on Anne.

Approaching the 3rd act, the film begins to rise to its incredibly tense heights, particularly in the last 15 minutes that was incredibly stressful and upsetting. Particularly in the context of the story, about a woman who is unable to get an abortion due to the French healthcare system, refusing to allow a woman to have control over their own body. It’s appalling in context & with its filmmaking, that rarely gives you a moment of reflection besides the end credits.

While I love the French’s use of quietness & lack of score, I sometimes found it repetitive and strange that they tend to do this. Rather than grounding certain reactions, especially when characters are in pain and agony. Their “screams” tend to be quiet and while it creates an internal struggle, it never felt natural. The film does a say a lot, but not as much I would have loved it to explore, it constantly limits itself with the cinematography.

To conclude, Happening is a fantastic exploration of limited healthcare for women that is still relevant today. Despite being set in the 60’s, it feels awfully familiar in times such as this. It’s not an easy watch but a watch needed.

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