REVIEW: Pieces of a Woman

Pieces of a Woman stars Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf as Martha and Sean, a married couple preparing for the imminent arrival of their first child. But a heartbreaking home birth leaves Martha struggling with grief and becoming increasingly isolated from Sean and her family.

If you’ve heard anything about Pieces of a Woman recently, it will no doubt be in relation to the home birth scene. Coming right at the start of the movie, and following a brief introduction to our two parents to be, the birth is shot in a single 22 minute take, from the point of Martha’s waters breaking in the kitchen, to the arrival of the midwife and the eventual birth of the baby. As with any childbirth, there’s a lot going on, a lot of emotions as the drama moves between the various rooms of the house. And everyone involved is outstanding, particularly Vanessa Kirby who is completely convincing. With the impressive, extended intro over, we cut to black and the title of the movie appears on screen. We then move onto the aftermath.

At first, we don’t know exactly what went wrong with the birth and Martha and Sean do not have all of the answers either, which is essentially where a lot of the grief and tension arise from. Martha returns to work, to the shock of her co-workers, and it’s clear that both her and Sean are very quickly beginning to drift apart, dealing with their grief in very different ways. Sean resorts to drinking, sleeping with Martha’s cousin and having emotional outbursts, while Martha remains quietly detached from everyone and everything, and even meets with a local university to discuss donating their baby’s body to medical science. Dirty plates stack up in the kitchen, house plants become limp from lack of water and attention. 

We also discover that, in among all of the grief, everyone seems determined that the midwife who delivered their baby be blamed, prosecuted and sent to jail for five years, due to negligence and manslaughter. This is something which makes absolutely no sense when you first learn of it and even less sense when we finally arrive in the courtroom towards the end.

As we limp from month to month, the writing becomes worse and the film becomes increasingly frustrating and baffling. There’s an impressive supporting cast of friends and family, all delivering their melodramatic monologues with flair, but the writing holds them back and prevents the movie from delivering any of the much needed emotional impact. At times, conversations appear to be badly improvised and just as it feels like we’re about to get something of significance out of a scene or character, we cut to a different setting or later period in time, and all momentum is lost. 

A bold, impressive 30 minute opening and a performance from Vanessa Kirby which continues to highlight just how talented she is. But apart from that, Pieces of a Woman just feels flat.

Pieces of a Woman will be released on Netflix 7th January

Pieces of a Woman (2020) Drama | 126min | 7 January 2021 (UK) 5.4
Director: Kornél MundruczóWriter: Kata WéberStars: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen BurstynSummary: Martha and Sean 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 her husband and her domineering mother, along with the publicly vilified midwife, whom she must face in court. A deeply personal, searing, and ultimately transcendent story of a woman learning to live alongside her loss. Written by Netflix


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