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  • Kyle Snape

Pieces of a Woman (MOVIE REVIEW)

Rating: 15/R

Runtime: 128 Minutes

Director: Kornel Mundruczo

Cast: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Molly Parker, Ellen Burstyn

There are rarely ever a lot of films that evoke what could be best described as a depiction of genuine raw emotion. Most mainstream films and media use a genuine combination of aspects to the filmmaking process, whether it be cinematography, editing, music, and performance to bring their stories to life in ways that feel the most emotionally investing. But with Pieces of a Woman, director Kornel Mundruczo in his first English language production, introduces us with a film that uses as much of a minimalistic use of filmmaking as possible to replicate one of the most painful aspects of human emotion: grief.

Pieces of a Woman follows a woman named Martha, who along with her partner, Sean, are expecting a baby girl following a nine month pregnancy. After a home birth goes horribly wrong and they lose their child shortly after birth, the remainder of the film acts as a melancholic yet poignant depiction of grief as Martha comes to terms with her loss while also having to prepare for a court trial against her midwife who has had charges pressed against her.

This film features what can only really be described as one of the most anxiety inducing opening acts in a recent film so far this decade. In an entire almost 20 minute long one-shot sequence involving some of the best acting and cinematography work possible, we are introduced to Vanessa Kirby’s character as she along with Shia LeBeouf work alongside each other to show the slow and painful process of a woman’s child birth along with the almost flustered and scary aftermath of their loss. The cinematography is supreme, using careful handheld movements to keep things as naturalistic as possible. The music is kept to a bare minimum as to not kill the mood as the scene unfolds, and the acting is as close to lifelike as possible that it could almost be considered unreal. During the upcoming awards season in the Spring, if there is one person who should be given contention for an Oscar, it’s definitely Vanessa Kirby. Not just for the opening alone but for also giving it her all to keep her performance as natural as she could. It’s a performance that never felt show-y or preachy in any sense, but rather felt like a genuine depiction of a woman going through grief. Coming across not exactly sad, but rather as though depression had hit her and we are seeing this woman’s crippling numbness to the world surrounding it. It’s all brought together seamlessly well, and that alone makes this one of the best performances of the year. Shia LaBeouf also deserves to credit here as well for a strong performance, but given recent controversies against him, it would feel unwise to give him as much attention, but it shouldn’t stop his contributions from being well received regardless.

Pieces of a Woman is cemented so well by it’s riveting albeit anxious opening, that once the title comes on screen and another 90 minutes of the film plays in a more conventional sense, the film kind of falters a little bit. It’s not bad or anything, and it’s all elevated by strong acting and a convincing delve into one character’s psyche, but after opening so bombastically, it kind of makes the rest of the film less investing by automatic comparison. But don’t take that as a harsh negative on the film, if anything the aftermath of such a tragic start is what makes this film a stronger character piece than anything. Ellen Burstyn is implemented into the film more following this playing Martha’s mother who is trying to do everything to help her daughter go through her grief, even if her traditionalist intentions of giving her baby a proper funeral, instead of giving to science go against what Martha deems best. It’s a complicated screenplay for sure brought to life incredibly well because much like life itself, Pieces of a Woman isn’t easy to digest or wrap your head around. If anything, the film is trying its best to show everything from a stressful court trial, to a grieving partner contemplating cheating on his own significant other after a loss hit him so hard, to even the most nasty of emotional fallouts in such a way to convey a point. Nothing is ever resolved easily in life, and if anything, the true message behind this film is about how it’s more important to go through grief in a way that benefits you the most. You are the only one at the end of the day who can take action on how you deal with your mental health and your struggles, and to see the film take such an audacious yet layered approach to these ideas is what makes it investing to watch either as a character piece or as solid minimalist filmmaking. The music score by Howard Shore is solid, but definitely feels overblown at times given the very raw themes it’s musically trying to depict, and there is one turn of events in the film between two characters that feels way too mean spirited for what the film was going for in the moment, but when the rest of the film itself is so expertly well crafted from a filmmaking and acting perspective, it’s hard to complain about. If anything, that very well might be the point of it all when looking at it from the grander scale. Even when the world seems like it’s all against you, the most important thing to do that anything else after such a tragedy, is to just keep on finding reasons to keep on living. If anything, that is what Pieces of a Woman is trying to depict, and it should be commended for it.


Whether one would like to look at it as a masterclass in minimalist filmmaking or as a masterclass of performance and writing, there won’t be another for a while that will capture that feeling of grief quite like Pieces of a Woman. Even if it loses a bit of that lustre after a near perfect opening sequence, there is still plenty to offer here if you are looking for great performances, or just an emotional piece of filmic storytelling. It’s definitely a difficult watch and might be too much for some to handle, but it feels very important to use film in such a way that it can evoke such melancholic emotion. How sometimes only using the bare essentials of the filmmaking craft with little music, strong performances and natural cinematography can be used to help us find closure in the most difficult of our human emotions. It’s a very solid film that might not be perfect, but won’t leave the minds of those who decide to delve into it. It’s an emotional, and hugely important work of art.


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