3.5 out 5 stars
What do you say when a parent has experienced the horror of losing a baby during childbirth? Few words can bring solace in this dark time of the human experience. Pieces of a Woman is the stage play turned feature film from Kornél Mundruczó and Kata Wéber that addresses this raw and emotional aspect of parental living after a child's death. With a degree of artistry and disjointed storytelling, this production team manages to expose the deep-seated reality of one of humanity’s greatest tragedies.
Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf) prepare for their firstborn child's arrival in the cold winter of Boston. The couple has chosen to have a home birth and everything looks to be in place for their daughter's delivery. Yet, things do not go to plan as their midwife is called to another pregnancy on the other side of town and they are left with Eva (Molly Parker) as the substitute carer. This qualified medical practitioner remains in control and is reassuring throughout the process until the little girl is born and things quickly take a turn for the worse.
As the couple works through the grief of losing their child, they must decide whether to prosecute Eva for negligence. Difficult decisions must be made on the legal front and what to do with the baby girl's body. This leads to a vicious spiral of emotions that whirls through every relationship of those involved in this situation. This disturbing wound manages to expose all of the faults in Martha and Sean’s lives. While she confronts her insecurities, he must fight off the addictions that have not ruled his world for over five years. Even when they are offered help from Martha’s mother, played with subtle brillance by Ellen Burstyn, nothing seems to help with the pain. Each of them must come to terms with this grievous reality and determine if they have enough to salvage their future together.
It becomes apparent that this story will rely on Venessa Kirby’s performance for its success in a concise time. Even though she is afforded a fantastic supporting cast and a strong leading man with LaBeouf at his tragic best, the whole movie centre’s on Kirby. Not that Shia LaBeouf is not compelling, but he must be satisfied with being in his co-star's shadow for this project. An actress who has always been one of the best parts of various ensemble casts in the past, this is genuinely her breakout role. She proves that she not only can carry a film, but that she can tap into a range of emotions with convincing depth. Regardless of the disheartening topic, this proves to be one of the standouts in cinemas this year.
Mundruczó brings a European component to the narrative with his disjointed manner and abrupt transitions. This may prove to be inaccessible for mainstream audiences between the confronting language, sexual content, relational tensions, and jumbled direction. Yet, suppose one can overcome these elements which all are part of the real world and support the overall screenplay. In that case, Vanessa Kirby’s performance may prove to be the very thing that can pull audiences through to the end. Pieces of a Woman is a gut-wrenching and exhausting journey that is not for the faint of heart. Still, this film does deliver an honest portrayal of grief that might be the thing people need at this time.
REEL DIALOGUE: How do you deal with grief?
Kornél Mundruczó and Kata Wéber’s screenplay brings grief to the forefront of people’s lives. Regret, tears, anger, confusion are some of the emotions that come during this time in the lives of those who lose a loved one, especially a child. One thing that can be considered about the Bible's message is that God is not only there for those who grieve, but that he can empathise with them too. His Son died a horrific death and it allows people to know that they can come to a God who knows how they feel during this low in their lives.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18