By Amanda Gilmore
Adapted from Annie Ernaux’s Memoir, Golden Lion Winner Happening is set in 1963 France and follows Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) a promising young university student who learns she’s pregnant. She wants to terminate but her doctor refuses because of the unsparing laws against abortion. As the week’s pass, Anne seeks any means of ending the pregnancy in hopes of reclaiming her future.
Writer/Director Audrey Diwan brings us Anne’s harrowing journey with empathetic and unflinching honesty. Diwan expertly uses 4:3 aspect ratio which puts the focus on Anne and not the set. This creates a relationship with her instead of the society and its views on terminating the pregnancy. Society’s view on abortion results in Anne becoming isolated both mentally and physically. Diwan cinematically visualizes this through the use of silence.
Diwan’s direction is beautifully raw. She uses long-takes and unedited scenes, which creates graphic visuals that are difficult to watch but essential to accurately portray the dangers of Anne’s journey. Additionally, these takes effect Anne’s concept of time. She’s constantly running against time that’s passing from within her.
Happening is necessary viewing and one of the best films at Sundance ‘22. The Film also has one of the best performances from the unwavering Vartolomei. She evokes the turmoil of a young woman desperately wanting an education and experienced life, before helping raise another. Her vulnerability is unparalleled in her fearless performance of the courageous Anne.
Happening screens virtually at Sundance:
Premiere: Jan. 22 at 11:15PM EST
Second Screening: Jan. 24 at 10AM EST (available for 24hrs)