They say that child birth can be a beautiful thing. But what happens if it doesn’t go according to plan? Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó, demonstrates exactly that, in this painfully poignant piece that follows a couple who are met with such fate.
Vanessa Kirby’s (Mission Impossible: Fallout) Martha and Shia LaBeouf’s (Honey Boy, The Peanut Butter Falcon) Sean, go through the trauma of a failed home birth. Only us as the viewers, get put through that trauma with them. With a harrowing half hour opener, that puts us right in the thick of the babies delivery. And the rush and the panic which quickly ensues.
Mundruczó’s drama offers a handful of talking points, for you to discuss when the credits finally start scrolling across your screen. But, it’s the incredibly challenging and raw opening segment, that will leave you breathless and emotionally violated.
If you do manage to survive the torturous pre-title sequence, then I can happily tell you, it gets a little easier from there (but not much).
Pieces of a Woman isn’t afraid to show the continuous damage and despair caused by such tragedy. Not only the loss of a child, but the silence, anger and broken relationships that follow.
As difficult as that initial moment may be to stomach however, the rest of the movie fails to reach even a pinch of that intensity. Family feuds, relationship problems and even a bizarre court order because, well it’s America, and sue is their favourite three letter word after USA (if that even counts).
Where Pieces of a Woman shines, is through its staggering performances, and wonderfully shot set pieces.
Shia LaBeouf’s improvement as of late is certainly being recognised, and is perhaps at his best here. Ellen Burstyn also turns in a great performance as Martha’s thorough but fair mother. But Vanessa Kirby is outstanding.
Bound for golden glory, Kirby delivers a career high performance. Through the screams of pain to the emotionally obsolete, and silent strains that followed. Kirby leaves you felling helpless, and eventually hopeful. You’re put through the ringer solely because of her performance alone, and makes you wonder if there would’ve been anybody else who could play the role.
Director Kornél Mundruczó seeps every little detail and emotion through his perfectly positioned photography. The almost entirely one shot birth scene, to the tracking shots and stills in later sequences, Kornél’s direction is certainly the head turner.
Clocking in at an exhausting 2 hours 8 minutes, Pieces of a Woman feels every single moment of it. It’s an uncomfortable concept, that is made to feel so real and authentic. But it takes an age to get to the bottom of the tale, and you’ll be begging to follow it up with something far more fluffy and comical.
Perhaps not the best place to start your movie viewing year, especially given the circumstances as of late. This isn’t a movie that will entice you with sharp storytelling, or vigorous energy. It’ll actually leave you incredibly lethargic and perhaps have you grasping onto your loved ones tighter than ever before.
But for its performances alone, this Netflix original is a tour de force. And the awards season is likely to welcome it with open arms.