Directed By Audrey Diwan

Starring – Anamaria Vartolomei, Kacey Mottet Klein, Luana Bajrami

The Plot – This is the story of Anne (Vartolomei), 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.

Rated R for disturbing material/images, sexual content and graphic nudity

(1) Happening – Official Trailer | HD | IFC Films – YouTube


“Happening” is as brutal as any horror film being produced today and made all the more unnerving because legal abortion has unfortunately been the hotbed of much discussion as of late in our country that conveniently preaches about its freedoms, then does little to follow through on that promise. So its arrival time couldn’t be better in both providing an ample argument for its necessity, while also illustrating an insightfully honest depiction of sociological commentary on female sexuality. This is depicted breathtakingly from second time director Diwan, whose candidness for presentation in handheld camera work, bland color grading, and an unorthodox 1.37 aspect ratio, grants the audience an earnestness in accessibility and design that immerses us in the many dark and seedy environments that Anne’s journey takes her on, all the while enhancing her dreaded disposition with a boxed-in claustrophobia that highlights her disparaging loneliness in keeping such a secret. Diwan’s unapologetic emphasis in atmosphere and imagery gives way to a gripping direction that makes it difficult to look away at certain times, even during moments so tender and vulnerable toward audience eyes and ears, yet tasteful in the depiction of its various touchy imagery. Even with this notion supplanted, the final fifteen minutes of the film are a visceral gut punch full of limitless duration and exoneration for Anne, and in the case of the narrative resolves matters with a poignantly profound impact that will serve as the fuel to future arguments on the subject. This is followed up with Diwan’s grasp on the storytelling as a screenwriter, which not only vividly conveys the growing weight of responsibility and ambition placed endlessly on the shoulders of its troubled protagonist, but also in sifting through the many events of Anne’s life with a nuance of mystery that makes her story so compelling throughout. While it’s not a major focal point of the narrative, the script deliberately leaves out the establishment of the pregnancy itself, which in turn springs forth questions in the minds of the audience about her conception, and eventually answers them during the moments the clarity can be felt the loudest for Anne’s own motivations. It pieces them together seamlessly in such an unorthodox fashion that really provide artistic depth and merit to the story, all the while attaining the authenticity factor in the balance that permeates so effortlessly in the boundaries of this specific setting. For such an occasion, the production design provides subtle conveyance of this being the sixties, mainly in the wardrobe and set designs, but never in ways that override the importance of the narrative as a dominant period piece. The necessity of this established setting bares everlasting consequence, as we’re forced to confront our own sociological growth that alludes to as many things changing visually about this canvas, many things internally remain the same, feeding into the notion that those who learn from history are often doomed to repeat it. On the performance front, there’s plenty to also appreciate in the talents of this collective ensemble, but Vartolomei definitely stands out above the rest for her unlimited depth she brings to the character. At times, Anne can be a wild card of a character: sometimes longing in the sadness and depression that overwhelm and influence her hopeless, helpless disposition, other times angry at the one track minds of men in her community, and even occasionally whimsical when she seeks a cloaking mask to hide the conformity of aforementioned aspects that often leave her glass of optimism half empty. Anamaria brings an innocence and empathy to the role that pays off in spades for the investment to her character, enacting through a compelling character study in the life of a woman who risks her life and her dreams to control the body and fate that only belong to her and only her in the first place.



While nothing too compromising to the duration of the 95 minute run time, I found some slight limitations in the boundaries of the opening act that may test the patience of the audience while on their way to bigger and better acts. The first issue is obviously the pacing of this area, with a script already imbedding us in the opening weeks of Anne’s newfound discovery, yet never attaining the urgency of the race against the clock that should make the days pass like wind in her need for resolution that makes each day feel like a year in passing. Beyond this, I also wish we established Anne’s backstory a little more thoroughly during those opening moments, in order to fully flesh out the extent of the stakes that are hanging in the balance. Anne is occasionally proven to be this top tier student with some momentarily clumsy dialogue throughout, but I feel like more time spent with her prominence would elicit a greater sense of tragedy for everything she’s being asked to give up, in turn illustrating further the life-altering reality that isn’t just a temporary inconvenience.



“Happening” is Audrey Diwan’s ticket to the big dance, and one she uses exceptionally to craft a nightmarish exploration of feminist vulnerability to echo the outdated ideals of our own eerily prescient sociological idiosyncrasies. If a story feels this impactful for the fictional renderings of the silver screen, imagine the realities of a world deducing medical rights to those without a choice.

My Grade: 9/10 or A

5 thoughts on “Happening

  1. I still vividly remember seeing this one during Sundance especially for a few paticular visuals that haven’t left my mind since. There’s definitely a lot to priase about it especially with the direction as well as the lead performance. With that said, I personally liked Never Rarely Sometimes Always a bit more than this and that might be why I didn’t go quite as high as you. Both are rather similar in storytelling outside of the setting. Plus, the pacing you mentioned was a bit more detrimental to the viewing experience for me which made it difficult to get fully invested until the second half. With that said, this film definitely couldn’t have come out at a better time. It’s a great companion piece to Never Rarely Sometimes Always, and I’m so glad that you loved it as much as you did. Great work!

  2. This sounds like a very interesting film, and as you mentioned couldn’t come at a more vulnerable time than now. Will more than likely be one I have to muster up the want and time to turn on, but I feel like it’s one that needs to be seen.

  3. This is a movie definitely out of my normal wheelhouse, though I may be encouraged to watch it so thank you for the review letting me know that it may be a worthwhile watch even for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *