Movie Plot – Pieces of a Woman: When a young mother’s home birth ends in unfathomable tragedy, she begins a year-long mourning that relationships with loved ones in this deeply personal story of a woman learning to live alongside her loss.
Director: Kornél Mundruczó
Writer: Kata Wéber
Cast: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn
A heavy start
The spark can suddenly be gone because of something that doesn’t even last a beat. The realization that something traumatic has become a reality. One moment Martha and Sean share their full lives, their hopes, and plans for a bright future. The next, they don’t know each other anymore. Pieces of a Woman begin impressively, with a tragic event depicted half an hour with an unprecedented piece of intimate cinema. The rest of the film consists of snippets of time, in which we see the trail of destruction that has swept through two lives.
Of course, Martha and Sean’s happiness is imperfect from the start, but there is a lot of love between these two characters. You believe Vanessa Kirby when she acts like she’s laughing at Shia LeBeouf’s character’s agonizingly lame puns and how sweet he can be to her when she needs the greatest support. But we also sympathize when their happiness is torn to pieces, and they muddle along for a long time before they actually articulate that something has gone missing.
You should be able to feel the pain of these two characters. Sean’s behavior derails in multiple ways and even becomes agonizing to watch as the story drags on, which is very important. With an actor other than LeBeouf, it might have been harder to accept that this man has such extremes in him. So, Shia was really a good fit here. Kirby plays her pain so overwhelmingly that it makes her immobile. We almost never see a character like that in a movie. To make that compelling and dramatic, you really have to have what it takes.
As you already know, Martha, in particular, does not know what to do with her emotions. In this sad period, she also has to learn to deal with the consequences of her relationships with her husband on the one hand and her estranged mother on the other.
This is a very sad film, showing all the emotions and problems one can face as a parent after a tragic and traumatic event like losing a new life. With intimate camera shots and a magisterial Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf, the film manages to evoke an avalanche of sadness, helplessness and anger.
A slow movie
For his English-language debut, the stylistic Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó goes for a raw realism that we are not necessarily used to from him. He does, however, pull out his cinematic bag of tricks to pull that off. That doesn’t necessarily produce a film that is broadly appealing. He dares to push off when he feels the story calls for it, and that’s not necessarily when the average viewer is waiting for it.
For my taste, it was a bit too slow. I appreciate what the filmmakers want to accomplish with this. This is also, without a doubt, the right approach. Still, it takes a long time for anything to happen effectively and the film feels drawn out. On the other hand, pain can sometimes heal slowly or not at all. It’s a trauma I hope I never experience.
Heavy but rock-solid drama in which the tragic loss of a newborn baby disrupts an entire family. Pieces of A Woman gets off to an outstanding start with a strong role from Vanessa Kirby.