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aka - Heureux Evenement, Un
France 2011
Directed by
Remi Bezancon
107 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars

Happy Event, A

Synopsis: Barbara (Louise Bourgoin) and her boyfriend, Nicolas (Pio Marmai), are head-over-heels in love. He suggests that they have a baby together. Hey presto, she gets pregnant and they embark upon the journey of a lifetime. But nobody has warned them, especially Barbara, about the realities of pregnancy, childbirth and beyond.

A kind of lighter companion piece to Valerie Donzelli marvellous Declaration Of War which came out earlier the same year, A Happy Event is a candid look at what it means to surrender to the demands of motherhood and how challenging it is to preserve the romance in a relationship, post-partum. I’m sure most women would find something that mirrors their own experience of pregnancy and childbirth. What really impressed me about it however is that I think most men, and women, parents or not, would find something to entertain them in its cleverly-executed, funny, sexy and often touching story.

The film opens with some off-screen heavy breathing, then a hugely pregnant Barbara trying to get herself and her belly off the bed, while her voice over speculates as to how she got herself into this situation. In a wonderfully film-referencing opening scene we see her meeting thespunky Nico who works in a video shop and they tantalise each other with suggestive film titles.

Barbara’s anticipation of the joy of pregnancy is soon shattered with a mix of nausea, raging hormones and a burgeoning belly. The actual scene of the baby’s birth is a heady mix of humour, images of pain and distress and descriptions of the ripping apart of a woman’s body to enable the baby’s entry to the world. This theme of the shattered body is followed through as the couple soon find their sex life non-existent, Barbara experiencing herself as nothing more than a conduit for the nest grneration. Few details are spared of the effects of the birth on her nether regions. Then there are the typical sleepless nights with baby coming into the bed. Soon fights ensue over who is working harder and therefore needs more sleep, whose mother should come to help, and all the usual stuff new parents will recognise.

The mixture of joy, pain and fear of being a mother are beautifully interwoven with many incisive voice-over comments from Barbara as she tells us how she learns about “self-renouncement, tenderness and sacrifice” and being pushed beyond her limits. There are several gorgeous smaller roles, especially the midwife who allays Barbara’s fear that she may not bond with her child.

The relationship between Barbara and her oddly independent mother (a marvellous Josiane Balasko) is tense but moving but Nico’s mother seemed to me too abrasive to be true. Bourgoin’s performance is vibrant and engaging and the baby just adorable. The camera work is slick with the highly effective close-ups of the prosthetic belly and umbilical cord giving us the feeling that we are really experiencing all this first-hand.

There is so much that is different, a bit off-kilter and so very un-Hollywood in its approach to a much-tackled subject that A Happy Event makes for an excellent and enlightening experience, one that should have you sympathising big time with new mums everywhere.




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