It’s impossible for me not to write about Pieces of a Woman from my own experience with child loss. The movie is about a child’s death during delivery and her parents’ grieving process as they search for personal closure. As a father who has lost three babies with my sublime wife through miscarriages, Pieces of a Woman really hits close to home.
The film’s perfectly choreographed opener is heart-wrenching through its tense silences, unpredictability and exposed emotions. Every detail is seen in its rawest form on screen because this pregnancy and delivery will eventually become the crux for a court case involving a sorrowful midwife (Molly Parker). The courtroom drama plays in the background of this story, which was unexpected considering how we already assume that dynamic between the midwife and the heartbroken couple (Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf) will greatly affect the character-driven moments. However, Pieces of a Woman becomes much more introverted, choosing to focus on fragments of life after death.
Martha (Kirby) processes this tragedy through silence as she becomes more sensitive to off-hand comments or triggering visuals cues. She feels judged by her mother Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn), despite mom trying her best to empathize as she finds ways for her daughter to find justice. Sean (LaBeouf), a recovering addict, resists the urge to fall off the wagon, yet struggles to find a way to face his frustrations with the situation.
Under the impeccable direction of White God’s Kornél Mundruczó and Kata Wéber’s screenplay, Pieces of a Woman is like watching incredibly disciplined, nuanced theatre. The character work (notably by the mentioned performers) is a compelling masterclass in acting by the talented ensemble; allowing all viewers to be caught up in the film’s swelling, dramatic waves. It’s a heavy viewing experience, but a satisfying endeavour.
If this subject matter hits home for you as it did with my wife and I, yes, Pieces of a Woman takes some personal preparation. But what we found, and what we hope others will take away from the movie as well, is that these storytellers have done a terrific and respectful job at addressing the devastation of child loss and the overwhelming reactions that follow from every direction. You may find yourself identifying with the characters (a heated discussion between LaBeouf and a doctor made my heart leap into my throat), which is a testament to how powerful the performances are, and the attention focused on new significance that’s brought to light after a tragedy is fully supported with reason and empathy.
Pieces of a Woman was a movie that spoke to me – I hope it speaks to you as well.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie