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Pieces of a Woman struggles to maintain momentum after a stunning opening act, but Vanessa Kirby's performance makes the end result a poignant portrait of grief. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf) are a Boston couple on the verge of parenthood whose lives change irrevocably when a home birth ends in unimaginable tragedy. Thus begins a yearlong odyssey for Martha, who must navigate her grief while working through fractious relationships with Sean and her domineering mother (Ellen Burstyn), along with the publicly vilified midwife (Molly Parker), whom she must face in court.

Cast & Crew

Steven McCarthy
Photographer
Kata Wéber
Screenwriter
Jason Cloth
Executive Producer
Aaron L. Gilbert
Executive Producer
Sam Levinson
Executive Producer
Richard McConnell
Executive Producer
Benjamin Loeb
Cinematographer
Dávid Jancsó
Film Editor
Howard Shore
Original Music
Sylvain Lemaitre
Production Design
Mette Haukeland
Art Director
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News & Interviews for Pieces of a Woman

Critic Reviews for Pieces of a Woman

All Critics (229) | Top Critics (58) | Fresh (172) | Rotten (57)

Audience Reviews for Pieces of a Woman

  • Mar 08, 2021
    How do you deal with a loss that your body constantly reminds you was supposed to be a blessing? How does one do, concentrate, or consider anything else besides what they should have been doing in the weeks and months following? How does everything not simply feel like a waste of time? From the car you just bought to the child-like mannequins in the store windows to the room in your house that was meant to be theirs. The simple sight of a young girl signaling Martha's (Vanessa Kirby) body to begin producing milk. It's cruel, it' unimaginable, and it's made even worse when your most pressing questions have no satisfactory explanations. Even if they did though, they wouldn't ease the pain or heal the hurt. In Kornél Mundruczó's Pieces of a Woman the show-stopper is the opening, prologue-like birth sequence that contains all the anxiety, excitement, and physicality of an actual birth; never letting the air out of the room for an unbroken twenty-three minute shot that builds to a moment of blissful promise and then immediate pain. It is in the aftermath of this tragedy that Mundruczó's film with a screenplay by Kata Wéber focuses the rest of its energy. Martha doesn't express her grief outwardly. The self-blame, the shame, the guilt, and the aforementioned grief is all happening internally making Kirby's performance that much more impressive. We don't like to talk about death in general, never mind the death of a child, but this is mostly in fear of stirring up emotions those who've experienced such loss would rather not be reminded of in the moment. The issue goes deeper than simply talking about it though, as Martha's not even sure she herself knows how to express such grief in the first place; society doesn't know how to deal with such a tragedy, so how does she? This is naturally a rather isolating feeling, to suddenly lose this person you've been creating over the past nine months and both Wéber's screenplay and Kirby's performance genuinely capture the confusion and the helplessness of it all. Speaking of helpless, Shia LaBeouf is equally as impressive in an arc that is heartbreaking in its own right. The film begins on the fateful day of September 17th and moves spontaneously to different days over the course of the following months as a legal case is mounted against the midwife (Molly Parker) present on the night of the birth. This plotting is largely put in place due to LaBeouf's Sean and Martha's mother, Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn), craving some kind of justice which introduces the family lawyer into the mix as played by Sarah Snook. It's terrible to watch something so intangible and innocent as the love for a child be processed and formalized through something as structured and cold as the court system, but Mundruczó's flawless eye and specific aesthetic paired with Howard Shore's lovely yet restrained score make the difficulties in the minutia of the narrative easier to consider. As Martha drifts in the opposite direction in terms of managing her pain she and the remainder of her family find themselves at odds with one another about the path being taken. What's even more difficult to understand is how people can and why they try to force how they believe others should deal with traumas they haven't experienced in the way they believe is appropriate. It's evident in Burstyn's dramatic monologue (which she will undoubtedly win awards for) she only wants what is best for her daughter and to see her daughter come out of this life-altering event with as few scars as possible, but the fact of the matter is that this is a life-altering event and Elizabeth seems unable to accept the fact she couldn't shield her daughter from such pain. I understand movies such as this are made not only to reaffirm those that have experienced such tragedy and trauma that they are not alone as well as to be able to work through something incredibly personal. Everyone has to find their own truth and own way of dealing with loss and it's rather courageous to seek this path instead of trying square away your grief into a category. It's a lone journey, but an ensemble loss and the film enlightens the viewer to these multiple perspectives and not only these different reactions to this same experience, but how it impacts these different people in completely different ways.
    Philip P Super Reviewer
  • Jan 20, 2021
    30 mins of this film takes place before the title credits even appear and it's quite possibly the best 30 mins of any film from 2020. It's powerfully delivered by White God director Kornél Mundruczó in his depiction of a home birth that captures the intensity of such an experience. I was hugely taken aback by the films opening power just as much as I'm taken aback by the films somewhat lukewarm reception. I can only assume it's because the pace dramatically reduces from then on in which really wasn't an issue for me. This is a devastating human drama with a trio of superb performances from Shia LaBeouf, Molly Parker and Ellen Burstyn but the film belongs to Vanessa Kirby who really shines with her disassociated depiction of a grieving woman struggling to maintain a grip on her emotions. There's a few heavy handed metaphors that don't entirely work but they weren't enough to spoil my overall enjoyment. It's an emotional film and a grim watch but it's superbly delivered by all involved.
    Mark W Super Reviewer
  • Jan 20, 2021
    I almost never watch movies like these -- mega-drama releases during Oscar season. But in my first year reviewing on Letterboxd, movies like this appear so consistently in the "Popular with Friends" feed I find myself drawn to them. And after forcing my self to watch PIeces of a Woman knowing I'd struggle, I think I'm going with my gut next time around. I don't really have much to add to what's been said before. The birth scene is heart wrenching. The acting is phenomenal. Shia Lebouf's performance was so excellent I kept wanting to slap myself in the face reminding myself that he's a complete asshole. But the bulk of the movie after the first act is just painful to sit through. Not because of the depressing subject matter. Nothing really gels. Overall it felt like a jigsaw puzzle that was half completed.
    Mark B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 06, 2021
    More an acting exercise than a fully developed movie, Pieces of a Woman is a punishing experience for the audience as much as the actors onscreen. The entire first 30 minutes is comprised of watching a home birth in an extended long take, which doesn't so much immerse you in the situation as beg the question of, "How'd they do that?" The sequence concludes with a rushed delivery and an asphyxiated child, and then we cut to the title screen. From there, it's 90 minutes of what agonizing grief does to this family. Vanessa Kirby (The Crown) plays the mother and she doesn't want to let go but also feels uncomfortable that their flustered midwife is being charged with negligent homicide. Her boyfriend (Shia LaBeouf) is struggling to maintain their relationship and move past their shared tragedy. Her mother (Ellen Burstyn) is a domineering presence and wants the boyfriend gone and the midwife in jail. It's all very well acted and Kirby does a fine job dredging up pure emotional devastation. The problem is that Pieces of a Woman has seemed to confuse drama with plot. There are many dramatic moments that occur but they don't really provide greater insight into the main characters who are, at their core from that half-hour mark onward, broken people coming to terms with their response to the unimaginable. It seems paradoxical because the concept of a grieving family, angry and looking to blame someone, a relationship splintered where each party is potentially having an affair to feel something diverting, mother-daughter head-butting, it all seems like foundational elements of compelling drama. The problem is that we don't ever get progression with the characters and their emotional states from these very dramatic events. They're suffering, they're unhappy, they're numb to the pain yet carrying on, but are they interesting? Are we getting more of a sense over who they are or how they've changed? I would argue no. The movie feels locked into stagnation. I think a major stumbling block was spending so much time establishing a realistic birthing sequence opening, aided by a roving and unblinking camera, when the same information could have been covered in the first ten minutes and not first 30. It's excessive and repetitive, but then so are the 90 minutes that follow that wallow in unchecked misery. It's an approach that can take some of the devastation out of the horrific. Pieces of a Woman will be available on Netflix streaming starting tomorrow and despite its artistic merits and good acting I can't exactly argue that it's worth enduring the pain over. Nate's Grade: C+
    Nate Z Super Reviewer

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