12 April 2014 | guy-bellinger
Event yes ! But happy... ?
UN HEUREUX EVENEMENT
Adapted from Eliane Abecassis' (very) autobiographical novel recounting her own (rather sour) experience of pregnancy and baby raising, "Un heureux événement" (A Happy Event) cannot be called a feelgood movie but it is an interesting one nonetheless provided of course you are not an expecting woman, a future dad or simply someone fainthearted. For the main quality of director Rémi Bezançon (whose former film was the excellent "Le premier jour du reste de ta vie") is his full frontal approach to the subject, without any false prudery or watering down.
"Un heureux événement" (quite an ironic title since, as exemplified here, having a baby is not necessarily an experience in keeping with the "happy event" cliché) deals with the case of Barbara (Louise Bourgoin), a philosophy student doing a doctoral thesis, who, after falling in love with Nicolas (Pio Marmaï), finds herself with child. Not that she is a born mother (she is even a dedicated feminist) but love changes everything, which leads her to grant Nicolas' desire to keep the baby. Of course she has no experience in the field but she is determined to practice learning by doing: how to be a pregnant woman, how to prepare for childbirth, how to go through the stages of labor and baby delivery and how to become a parent. Not an easy path for sure but one that millions of first-time mothers follow more or less overcome with anguish but successfully in the end. And this is what what would normally happen to Barbara who, with this wonderful gift, hopes to make her companion happy. Alas! Nicolas gradually turns from Prince Charming to Naughty Brat unable to hold his responsibilities, a bit like those kids who ask for a pet without the least notion of all the investment which goes with it, leaving it to their parents. From then on, Barbara (as well as her couple) sinks into the doldrums and the "happy event" gradually turns into a dreadful burden.
If you have seen "Le premier jour du reste de ta vie", you will certainly find this movie less inventive and original. In the former film, Remi Bezançon had managed to tell the story of a singular family presented successively by its five members, each one reporting a key event filtered through their own subjectivity. Here, there is only one point of view (Barbara's) and the story is told in chronological order, without the fancy displayed in the former work (one exception though: a weird nightmare sequence). But this does not mean that the director has lost his creative sense. The unsophisticated form is actually a deliberate artistic choice, Bezançon's camera following Barbara's slow but implacable descent into hell from the beginning to its close in a documentary-like way, with nothing to distract the viewer. Which makes his film a dour realistic work whose uncompromising approach may account for its mixed results at the box office. But it is also a film that rings true (Eliette Abecassis knows what she is talking about), very well interpreted by Lise Bourgoin who, despite (or maybe because) her personal lack of experience of motherhood, is totally and courageously invested in her role. Heartthrob Pio Marmai is very good too in his embodiment of "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" as defined by Milan Kundera.
Not a pleasant film experience, as I wrote before (but must the arts always please us?), "Un heureux événement" is a worthwhile one though, at least for those whose defense mechanisms are strong enough to stand it.