PIECES OF A WOMAN – A Review by Cynthia Flores
First off, if you’re pregnant, do not watch this film. It is the most agonizing twenty-four-minute-long birthing scene ever. It was shot in one long take. As a filmmaking and an acting event, it’s brilliant, but it is brutal for the audience. It makes the scene in the 1979 Ridley Scott film Alien where the alien bursts out of Kane’s chest look like a walk in the park.
Pieces of Woman is edgy Hungarian filmmaker Kornél Mundruczó’s English language directorial debut. His romantic partner Kata Weber wrote the script. She has said that the story was based on the couple’s own experiences, so this is a very personal project for the two and it shows.
Mundruczó sets an intimate tone for the film and gets an astounding performance from Vanessa Kirby as the bereaved young mother, Martha. He even manages to bring moments of great acting from Shia LaBeouf. He plays the dried-out former alcoholic Sean, the father of the child. If LaBeouf could only get out of his way with that odd, I think Boston-like accent for his character, which is supposed to be from Seattle; then it would have been even better. However, the script keeps his character shallow and almost an afterthought.
Pieces of a Woman is set throughout one winter, starting in September. It’s divided into eight dated chapters. Each chapter superimposed over a wide shot of the construction of a new bridge across Boston’s Charles River. It’s the building project that Martha’s partner Sean is working on at the film’s opening, till he gets the call to rush to the home birth of his daughter. The rest of the film covers the aftermath of the baby’s death. The film ends in the spring court case against the midwife Eva (Molly Parker) in April.
Pieces of a Woman has three main storylines that run alongside each other. The court case, the tense relationship the couple has with the wealthy and controlling Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn), Martha’s mother. And the sad disintegration of the loving relationship between career woman Martha and her blue-collar partner Sean. With all this going on, the film’s heartbeat is Vanessa Kirby’s performance as a fragile woman mourning her child’s death. She drifts through her everyday life, unable to comply with what other people expect from her or how they think she should deal with her grief.
Pieces of a Woman is a well shot, well cast, and moody film. However, it seems disjointed and relies on watching Martha fall apart almost in slow motion. You feel her pain, but it does not move the story forward fast enough. As far as the rest of the cast, Ellen Burstyn has a moment worthy of a nomination. In the part of Elizabeth, she delivers a dramatic monologue. It’s a showstopper. To reach her daughter emotionally, she tells a gut-wrenching survival story of her own birth in the Holocaust. However great a few scenes are in the film; they are not tied together well enough to keep the little over two-hour-long movie safely afloat.
I give Pieces of a Woman a 3.5-Star rating. It is not amazing but has some brilliant pieces worth seeing and shows excellent potential for its director.
Directed by: Kornél Mundruczó
Written by: Kata Weber
Selig Rating: 3.5 Stars
Running Time: 2hr 6min
Limited Release: December 30th The Angelika Theater and Cafe in Dallas and Plano then on Netflix January 7th
Starring: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn, Molly Parker
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
4 Stars – Good movie
3 Stars – OK movie
2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.