Anne is so undeterred that she almost seems possessed. She exhibits the same level of drive and determination seen in Reese Witherspoon’s Tracy Flick in Election. We only get a glimpse of her vulnerability after girls in her residence hall slut-shame her in the communal shower and accuse her of carrying syphilis. But for Anne, her choices are liberty or death. Hélène says early on about herself that she’ll be operating a tractor the following year if she flunks the exam. Anne is resolved to continue her studies. She plainly explains to one of her doctors that if she were to give up her promising future for a child, she’d end up resenting the child for the rest of her life. So she risks her life, even if she could still end up spending it in a literal prison if she survives.


Diwan’s film won’t likely sway or change anyone’s mind, but it does faithfully render an unfortunately timely picture of what a woman’s life can be like with abortion outlawed. Those who never lived through that time firsthand will undoubtedly leave the theater with a more informed opinion, but the real reason Happening manages to be so persuasive is because it tells such a vivid, intimate and relatable story, whether as a viewer it has happened to you or someone in your life, or your biggest fear is that it will.