Yet another risky film about an illegal abortion.
After I watched the new French drama “Happening,” which was about an illegal abortion, I went back to watch the 2007 Romanian drama “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days,” was also about an illegal abortion. That film was set in 1987; this one is set in 1963. But both films are about the challenges and complications of the procedure and some of its side effects. And the performances are uniformly excellent in the ways they grasp with their own realities.
A difference, besides the languages.
“Happening” isn’t really about friendship and loyalty; it’s about persistence and choices-ones that could affect the main pregnant woman’s health or her social standards and future careers or maybe even all.
The movie is based on Annie Ernaux’s book “L’événement,” which represented her own experiences as a 23-year-old pregnant woman, who needed to abort her unborn baby. At least I think it was based on a true story, because I’ve never heard of this writer, so I can’t say definitely. I’m told it was told from her 40-year-old perspective, as she reflects on her youth. “Happening” is only told from the youth’s perspective.
Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei), the movie’s main heroine, is in the middle of her literature studies, but finds out she’s pregnant. She wants to continue her schoolwork without being an early mother, but an abortion is out of the question, since it was illegal at the time. Anyone who helps would be in jail; the girl would be in jail, too. No doctors will help her, not even her friends Brigitte (Louise Orry-Diquero) and Olivia (Louise Chevillotte).
But as weeks pass, she begins to fail her class, and her future is now at stake. She has no recourse, but to try abort her own baby. Or at least find connections to pull it off. But it’s not going to be easy.
I don’t know how abortions actually work, since I don’t have the stomach to be in that position, but I have heard how dangerous it self-induced abortions are. And they can still be dangerous, even if you did have a doctor fixing you. Every time Anne was trying and trying to destroy her unborn baby, I was saying: “It’s like she’s trying to kill herself.” I mean no disrespect to women, who believe in this sort of thing, but this girl is crazy for even trying to push herself to the very limit.
“Happening,” directed by Audrey Diwan, represents that notion with a gripping and complex nature. It’s the kind of abortion movie, in which your face squints, because you’re uncomfortable by the procedure, and yet, you’re drawn into the life and complications of the young woman. Vartolomei is exceptional in every way possible as Anne. She has her dispositions, her emotions, and her complexity.
Among the supporting characters, besides her friends, her mother (Sandrine Bonnaire) employs her in the family business, and her teacher (Pio Marmai) warns her to start focusing on her work. The former has to slap the girl in the face when she decides to “get smart with her,” and the latter has to make the disapproving dispositions, as if the student is being some kind of delinquent. I can tell. I watch a lot of movies.
Given its immortal aspects and gripping filmmaking, Happening” is almost as exceptional as “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days.” They both have to make you uncomfortable, but, glass half full, they aren’t too graphic. Save the torture porn for the psychos.
In Select Theaters This Friday
Expands Next Week