Talk about a film arriving at just the right moment! This gripping French drama about a young woman in the early 1960s who gets pregnant and has to go through hell for an abortion will hit you right in the gut. If I’d seen it a month ago, I’d have described it as a cautionary tale. Now it feels more like a glimpse into our dystopian future.
Adapted from a memoir by Annie Ernaux, the film, delineated by the passing weeks, follows Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei), a promising university bound, working class young woman living in a student dorm preparing for exams that will decide her future. After realizing that she’s missed a period, she heads to a doctor only to find that that future is suddenly in serious jeopardy. And her decision to terminate the pregnancy pits her against everyone she comes in contact with.
The French laws at that time against abortion mean everyone she talks to sees her problem as something that could put them in jeopardy. The first doctor won’t/can’t help. Another doctor even sabotages her efforts to self abort. Her friends are afraid that helping her, even talking to her about it, will land them in jail. But she is a determined young woman, willing to exhaust every avenue she can find. And as the weeks tick by she becomes more and more desperate, even attempting to self-abort with her mother’s knitting needle, finally landing at the door of a back-alley abortionist.
Anamaria Vartolomei is pitch perfect as Anne, her face and her body registering her mounting despair and anger over the society’s restrictions on her life. It’s a very powerful film, extremely well directed and I hope it is seen widely.
If anyone questions why a woman might want an abortion, this is a film that will answer that. Anne has only two choices. She can stay pregnant and throw away her future, going home to work in the family’s bar and giving up any hope of rising above her humble beginnings OR continue on her academic path and making something of herself, allowing her to decide when and if she wants to have children without being forced into it by the state. I only wish that our Supreme Court justices would be forced to watch this before they make any more decisions about women’s autonomy.
In NY & LA theaters now and expanding nationally on May 13th.