Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf) are a Boston couple on the verge of parenthood whose lives change irrevocably when a home birth ends in unimaginable tragedy. Thus begins a yearlong odyssey for Martha, who must navigate her grief while working through fractious relationships with Sean and her domineering mother (Ellen Burstyn), along with the publicly vilified midwife (Molly Parker), whom she must face in court.
As people are not a monolith, there is technically no correct way to respond to events that take place. However, normative social influence dictates that many of us will respond in step with others to fit in. It’s when you step out of the realms of what other deem as normal that creates concern. With us all handling things in a number of different ways, it makes you wonder, is there really a correct way?
Pieces of a Woman is an emotionally charged journey that roars like a thunderstorm early on and continues to rain throughout. It performs like a study of grief as well as a search for hope in a hopeless situation. But more than anything, the film is a showcase of Vanessa Kirby’s talent. Presenting her character in a stoic, contemplative, and distant way, this drama thrives in the somber and succeeds in chemistry. The film feels almost as if it’s done backwards. The first thirty minutes have the same intense, high pressure feel as a climax and then you never feel that way again. It doesn’t quite deliver the cathartic release you want in the end. Instead, your left with an idea that what happened was never the be-all and end-all, and that one character truly messed up. With its subject matter, I thought this story would be difficult to tell. However, Mundruczó packages it in a very palatable way that never quite lifts you out of the gloom but doesn’t bury you in it. The intimate cinematography while bringing the dread to life, also plants seeds of light that result in some touching moments. The score is perfectly tuned to the actions on screen, adding a layer of emotion that wouldn’t be there without it. The films themes of loss, grief, control, and acceptance make this well written story something that is not quickly forgotten. I was able to view the film in November and it’s performances have stuck with me since. Its rewatchability is medium.
Plot & Pace
When a home birth ends tragically, Martha and her partner Sean are devasted as their familial dreams crumble. Both grieving the loss, they handle it in very different ways. Not only does it put a strain on their relationship but the midwife’s performance is called into question. Spanning a year, Martha still reeling from her loss must deal with a deteriorating relationship, a overbearing mother, and face the midwife in court.
The film moves at a steady pace after its heartwrenching first act.
Characters & Chemistry
Vanessa Kirby is astounding as she delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as Martha. The first act alone let me know that she was going to be amazing the rest of the film. While Shia LaBeouf’s performance as Sean was good within the context of the film, he seemed to just be playing a version of himself. Nonetheless, there were some visceral moments where the Shia we love rears his head. Another standout performance is that of Ellen Burstyn as Elizabeth, Martha’s mother. She’s one of those mothers that you’re a little afraid of. Her want for her daughter’s well-being makes her a force that will manipulate all things to get her way.
Pieces of a Woman premieres January 7th on Netflix. Stay safe and Enjoy.
Director: Kornél Mundruczó
Writer: Kata Wéber
Producers: Kevin Turen, Ashley Levinson, Aaron Ryder
Executive Producers: Martin Scorsese, Sam Levinson, Stuart Manashil, Viktoria Petranyi, Jason Cloth, Richard McConnell, Suraj Maraboyina, Aaron Gilbert, Steven Thibault
Runtime: 2h 6m
Rating: 4 out of 5