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film review: a happy event

With a title like A Happy Event (or Un hereux événement, its original French name), one might expect this film to be a cheery little comedy that neatly tied clichés and cuteness with a bow. However, once the story of Barbara (Louise Bourgoin) and Nico (Pio Marmaï) progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that there is a touch of irony to the title, as the events are actually a mixture of happiness and everything but.

We are introduced to the young French couple as they fall madly in love, and eventually decide to have a child. They are both scared, especially Barbara, but also excited. After their daughter Lea is born, they begin to drift apart and Barbara is left feeling lonely and helpless, struggling with the expectations and unwelcome advice of those around her. She eventually questions whether it is possible for she and Nico, or any couple for that matter, to remain in love after having a child.

The depiction of Barbara and Nico’s early romance is sweet and funny, and every indication suggests that this will be a twee love story, with a few necessary bumps along the way but an inevitable happy ending. In actual fact, the story becomes much more complex as it goes on. The film could almost be described as two films shown in quick succession: the first one being the honeymoon stage of the relationship and the pregnancy, and the second being everything after Lea’s birth.

This film presents a different perspective of love, pregnancy and relationships to what we are used to in cinema. Despite the attractive cast, it is not a glamorous look at family life, and reality is far from glossed over. It is a clever, honest story and the development of Barbara’s character is particularly impressive. The audience is treated to an intimate look at the feelings she experiences both before and after Lea’s birth, and her insecurities about motherhood and society’s pressure on her to be a certain type of mother are dealt with without judgement.

Nico’s character could perhaps have been developed a little further, but then Barbara’s character may not have been as strong, and that strength is the most impressive part of the movie. This film doesn’t end where you might expect it to, and it doesn’t cut away at the uncomfortable parts. For these reasons, it is definitely worth watching.

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