“Happening” unfolds in 1963 France, but the story of a woman risking imprisonment and her health to obtain an illegal abortion has emerged as the year’s most urgent drama.
“When I started thinking about making a movie about this topic, everybody asked why I would want to do that at this time?” says Audrey Diwan, director and co-writer of the IFC film, debuting in theaters May 6. “Now everybody tells me how timely it is.”
That’s because in the years that it took Diwan to bring “Happening” to the screen, the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court shifted dramatically to the right, with conservative justices achieving a supermajority.
Now, per Politico, the Supreme Court has voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision — and with it nearly 50 years of abortion protections — according to an initial draft majority opinion circulated inside the court.
“Happening” provides a deeply personal look at the ramifications of such a move. In it, Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei), a promising student with ambitions of using her education to break out of her lower-class life, finds herself pregnant and desperate. Friends fail to come to her aideHer future hangs in the balance as she races against the clock. Diwan ratchets up the tension with interstitials reminding audiences of how much time has passed and how far along Anne is in her pregnancy.
“I wanted it to play like a thriller,” Diwan says.
Anne lacks the financial means to find a safe solution, something Diwan says Americans should think about if abortion bans are upheld.
“The story I tell is a poor woman’s story,” says Diwan. “If you have money, you can go to another country and find somewhere where it’s legal and you find a way to have a medicalized abortion. The working class experiences these problems differently.”
The director is also upset that six of the nine-member court are men. What right, she asks, do they have to determine whether women have access to abortions?
“I would love to show them this movie,” says Diwan. “It’s complicated to make this decision. It’s even hard to be pregnant if you want the baby. For these men, it’s all just theoretical.”