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Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf) are a Boston couple expecting their first child. Choosing a home birth with a midwife, Martha and Sean’s delivery spirals into a nightmare as they lose the baby.
Martha must now navigate the emotional pitfalls of grief as she struggles with her relationship, her domineering mother and a lawsuit against their midwife.
There is no doubt that “Pieces Of A Woman” is a drama. The first twenty minutes of this film is emotionally draining, landing viewers right next to Vanessa Kirby’s Martha as she struggles to put back together the shattered pieces of her life.
Director Kornél Mundruczó exposes the nerve of loss and deftly exploits it, heightening a narrative by quickly introducing the emotional anchor of the film then adding elements to magnify the hurt – marital struggles, a domineering parent, etc.
Martha and Sean are a playful couple, Sean making up “Dad Jokes” and Martha giggling at his goofiness. Martha also shows a quick emotional vulnerability as a pregnancy often throws the mother’s hormones into a tizzy. Sean seems attentive and supportive – then the nightmare begins.
To witness this couple move from glowing to pale, from smiles to tears, from photos to disbelief is harrowing and smart for this setup fuels the film throughout.
The strength of this narrative is found in Vanessa Kirby’s outstanding performance. Her Martha endures the first day back at work after leaving from her baby shower a few weeks earlier, she fights with her mother regarding the spelling of her baby’s name on the tombstone, and she looks at children around her with both jealousy and grief.
LaBeouf gives a strong performance as well, as both Martha and Sean try to manage their grief, but struggle to do it together.
Some may wonder as to why someone would want to watch such a sad story. It was indeed difficult to watch, but excellent filmmaking, writing and acting performances transcend the emotional barbs that surround this film, offering an insight into a world many of us will hopefully never experience. That is the power of cinema, taking us places we would normally never go, whether these places are of light or darkness defines the journey as much as it defines the world in which we live.
Martha completes her difficult journey in a bright beam of understanding, giving her and us, an opportunity to grow as she embraces her grief as a part of her.
“Pieces Of A Woman” is one of my top ten films of 2020 and although it ends on a high note, this dark journey is befitting of 2020.
A deeply personal story of loss, “Pieces of a Woman” is a young mother’s tough year-long journey of grief. It’s a hard watch, nevertheless marked by remarkable performances.
When a Boston couple on the verge of parenthood endures the sudden loss of an infant, we are in for an unraveling of both of their lives, which will resonate with anyone who has faced a trauma.
Hungarian partners Kata Weber wrote the screenplay while Kornel Mondruczo directed, based on their similar experience, and they bring out the gut-wrenching impact of such an unimaginable tragedy.
The movie begins with an intense 23-minute home birth scene that goes tragically awry. The midwife (Molly Parker) is vilified and sued. The young couple’s rough patch is exacerbated by her domineering mother (Ellen Burstyn).
Stage actress Vanessa Kirby, who played Princess Margaret in “The Crown,” announces that she is an actress to watch. While her character Martha’s harsh odyssey is a wobbly one, you don’t doubt her commitment, and she’s heartbreaking.
Shia LaBeouf is fine as the supportive husband whose help is shunned by his shattered wife. The supporting cast includes comedian Iliza Shlesinger as Martha’s sister Anita, Benny Safdie as her husband and Sarah Snook as the family attorney.
This intimate portrait may lack some cohesiveness but is a painful foray into the healing process and a bruising human experience.