Showing on Netflix.
Written by Kata Weber and directed by Kornel Mundruczo, Pieces of a Woman is a study of grief and trauma. Vanessa Kirby, with an Oscar nominated performance, is Martha who we find alongside her husband Sean (Shia LaBeouf), preparing for the home birth of their daughter. As the labour begins she is disconcerted to find her usual midwife is unavailable but is replaced by a well qualified and experienced substitute. However as the labour progresses, all is not well and when heartbreaking tragedy strikes, Martha, Sean and those close to them find themselves in a desperate spiral of grief, trauma, blame and retribution.
Pieces of a Women is a hard watch, it is an almost relentlessly dark portrayal of grief, trauma and, in reality, the impact of failing to address it. Martha and Sean’s lives spiral into very dark places as their relationship disintegrates and their behaviour becomes ever more self destructive. Those around them react differently as they seek revenge and some kind of justice against the midwife who they feel should pay for their loss.
This is much more a study of loss than a coherent narrative, the film plays out over a year but focuses mainly on the 6 months between the loss of the baby and the trial of the midwife.
The film is well shot and cleverly uses the bleak, coldness of the winter months to mirror that of the story.
You can see why Kirby has earned award recognition, with a strong and emotional performance, but they are plenty of good performances alongside, Shia LaBeouf again giving an interesting and understated performance and Ellen Burstyn as Martha’s strong, seemingly cold and callous mother.
Pieces of a Women is a tough film to enjoy, but does have plenty to admire in the performances and cinematography. However, it fails to build on a powerful opening 30 minutes and as the characters decend into their varying levels of darkness, it is difficult for the narrative to hold together.
As a study of grief and its destructive nature it is certainly successful, whether it is as successful as a film overall is harder to judge.
If you’re prepared for 2 hours of pretty bleak storytelling then there are certainly things to admire here. But it is bleak and admirable rather than for those who fancy a light hearted bit of entertainment.