Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Remi Bezancourt
Stars: Louise Bourgin, Pio Marmai, Josiane Balasko.
A Happy Event is a sort of Gallic variation on the recent ensemble Hollywood comedy What To Expect When You’re Expecting. But unlike that sprawling, superficial and shallow Hollywood comedy about what happens during pregnancy, this film concentrates on one couple and their journey.
Barbara (Louise Bourgin) is a PhD student who meets the handsome Nicolas (Pio Marmai, who played Audrey Tatou’s ill-fated husband in the recent Delicacy), who works as a clerk in a video store. A clever sequence sees them flirt over various titles before they settle into a relationship. Then Barbara becomes pregnant, and her body experiences changes, which become uncomfortable for her. We learn of her doubts, her fears and her mood swings as she tries to deal with the changes to her body. Also her mother (Josiane Balasko, from The Hedgehog, etc) and sister offer plenty of unsolicited advice and Barbara’s sense of resentment grows.
The film not only follows the couple through the nine months of pregnancy – with its nausea, insecurities, family pressures, and emotional instability – but it also looks at what happens after the baby is born. The non-stop crying, the early morning feeding sessions, the sleepless nights, the changing of dirty diapers all put added stress on the relationship. Barbara feels trapped, and resentful of Nicolas, who goes to work every day.
This French romantic drama is based on the best-selling autobiographical novel written by French philosopher Eliette Abecassis, and offers an intensely personal account of what happens during pregnancy and how young couple find their lifestyle changed by the birth of their first child. The title is somewhat ironic, and this is at times a quite downbeat film.
A Happy Event has been directed by Remi Bezancourt (The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life, etc), and his direction is sharp and sympathetic. The film is laden with offbeat pop cultural references and surreal dream sequences that enhance its offbeat vibe.
The two leads develop a strong rapport, and their credible performances carry the film. Bourgin in particular is put through an emotional workout, and her performance allows her to develop a great range and depth.