L’événement [Happening] (2021)

Director: Audrey Diwan
Writer: Marcia Romano, Audrey Diwan
Based on: Annie Ernaux‘s novel
Cast: Anamaria Vartolomei, Kacey Mottet Klein, Luàna Bajrami, Louise Orry-Diquéro, Louise Chevillotte, Pio Marmaï, Sandrine Bonnaire, Anna Mouglalis, Leonor Oberson, Fabrizio Rongione
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 21.10.2021

Content Note: abortion

Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) has always been the smart one in her small village, the one seemingly destined to make something more of herself. So going to college seemed like a natural path for her to take. But now all her plans are threatened: Anne is pregnant. She is desperately looking at her options, only that she doesn’t really have many. Abortion is still illegal after all. But she knows that there are ways to get one regardless. Finding out how and where is difficult, though, especially since Anne can’t really share her problem with anybody.

L’événement is a harrowing and expertly made look at what happens when abortion is forbidden, turning it into a plea for reproductive freedom and choice.

The film poster showing Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) looking over her shoulder towards the viewer.

From what I gather, the novel this is based on (which I haven’t read) has autobiographical elements. I don’t know if that is part of why the film feels so realistic, but it certainly adds an oppressive layer to the situation: this is not a fictional worst case scenario, this is actual history. And, in fact, in too many places it is still the situation right now.

It’s devastating to watch Anne on her oddyssey, the loneliness and judgement she finds everywhere. And to think that she is quite resourceful in her desperation, so she can find ways to get what she needs despite the illegality, her poverty and the lack of support around her, makes matters even worse. How many pregnant people failed in the end to get the medical treatment they need? How many died from complications because they had to seek out unsafe methods? Of course, these are not new questions or problems, but the film brings them to the forefront and anchors them emotionally, making them feel fresh.

Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) hugging her mother (Sandrine Bonnaire) tightly.

Vartolomei is an excellent lead. Her Anne is vulnerable and strong, oscillating between desperation and anger, not ready to have her life derailed, but fighting for her plans and dreams. Vartolomei shows the hard, proud and angry shell that Anne needs to persists, but also lets us glimpse at the hurt, vulnerable and lonely person hiding behind that shell.

Diwan tells the story very matter-of-factly, giving the outrageous facts the chance to speak for themselves. And they speak loudly and clearly. Anne might be one of the lucky unlucky ones, but what kind of unjust world makes luck like this necessary?

Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) dancing at a party.

Summarizing: excellent.

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