HAPPENING – Review – We Are Movie Geeks


Wow, now there’s epic timing of the film’s ‘subject’, almost on par with THE CHINA SYNDROME (in theaters when the Three Mile Island news broke). Now remember that this movie is set over 60 years ago and is based on a famous novel from 2000. But it couldn’t come out at a better time. Oh, and it comes after picking up plenty of major accolades, including the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion last year. And though its themes have dominated American headlines for the past two weeks, a long, long time ago in a foreign land was still a most disastrous and morally weighty EVENT.

That time was 1960 and it landed in France, in an average city far from the effervescence of Paris. Anne (Anamarie Vartolomei), 20, lives on the campus of what could be called a “junior college”, but only a few kilometers from her parents Gabrielle and Jacques who run a small bistro. Fortunately, Anne has two best friends from school, the wild and free-spirited Brigette (Louise Orry-Diquero) and the shy and rather naive Hélène (Luana Bajrami). Now Anne is the most studious of the three as she focuses on literature, with aspirations of being a writer herself rather than a teacher. Oh, but she’s not always “buried in the books” and likes to hit up the local pub/disco with the trio’s male pal (Katey Mottet Klein) who steps in when the flirtatious local firefighters get a little too aggressive. Life is going well until she develops a voracious appetite and becomes pale and lethargic…and “late”. A visit to the doctor confirms her worst fear: she is pregnant. The distraught young woman hints that the doc should help him “get it over with”, making him back down for fear of jail time for both of them. Another doctor is content to prescribe a drug that would resume its “cycle”. As the weeks pass, Anne becomes increasingly desperate, imploring her friends for “contact” and hearing their fears about the harsh laws. She can’t bring herself to tell her parents, then turns to her brief vacation fling (she had lied to her doctor about her “sex history”), which is of no help or support. She begins to neglect her studies as the countdown grows louder. Are his literary dreams dashed? And if she can find a “secret supplier,” could she lose her life by waiting too long?

No matter how relevant and urgent a “trendy” movie is, its strength lies in the main character. Here, the talented Vartolomei makes Anne more than just a “symbol” of a “movement”. This budding writer is the “girl next door” or even your daughter or brother, struggling to find a way to overcome her situation. Vartolomei shows us Anne’s despair through her sad, haunted eyes as she must hastily decide who to confide in and who should not be “let know” about her situation. What is perhaps more serious is that his mind has almost “closed” as despair quenches this thirst for knowledge. And just when the light seems to break through the darkness, Anne is nearly engulfed in excruciating pain and suffering. Ms. Vartolomei turns out to be a most formidable young talent. Fortunately, she is helped by two other wonderful young actresses as best friends. Orry-Diquerio delights in shocking the other two, especially as she recreates the “dirty photos” she found hidden in the family home, but when told of Anne’s indiscretion, her Brigette is horrified and almost modest. It’s the recreation we’ve come to expect from Bajrami’s Hélène, who instead, in a powerful but quiet monologue, tells Anne about her own secret affair that might have landed her in the same place. Another powerful performance is given by Pio Marmai as Anne’s tough and nurturing mentor/teacher who is perplexed and angered by Anne’s complete change in attitude. Also supportive, but with strong maternal instincts, is Sandrine Bonnaire as Anne’s mother, who wants to be her daughter’s lifeline while never allowing Anne to disrespect their family unit.

This subtle and flawless treatment of what could be one of the most sinister and exploitative subjects is done with great skill by Audrey Diwan, who also contributed to the screenplay adaptation of Annie Ernaux’s acclaimed novel, alongside Marcia Romano, Anne Berset and Alice Girard. . They skillfully recreate the repressive atmosphere of a small town in the late 1960s to early 1960s, just a few years away from a huge social revolution. But while the title cards show the progress of the pregnancy, we see that Anne can’t just “sit” until that enlightened moment arrives. Perhaps the film’s greatest strength is the portrayal of Anne’s utter isolation, as her friends push her away and leave just as Anne begins a spiral of panic and torment, which then leads to a choice. which could be another “station from hell” as Anne delves into a seedy underground of whispered names and locations, as well as access to quick funding. While many hope to “turn back the clock” on this controversy, Diwan’s work provides a much-needed nostalgic antidote. Those “good old days” were indeed very dark for many, at least when it came to an impending life-changing EVENT.

3.5 out of 4

HAPPENING is now playing in select theaters worldwide

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