Pieces of a Woman (2020)
Be warned, this is a real emotional gut wrencher. Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LeBeouf) are having their first baby. I’m gonna come straight to it, both are amazing. This is not an easy story and they both come off remarkably natural, they nail it. Births on screen are usually brief aren’t they. Not here. Prepare yourself for a gripping and intimate rollercoaster that covers the entire opening act. It’s really intense, I mean REALLY INTENSE! Apparently Kirby doesn’t have children yet, hasn’t done this for real. You’d have no idea, she’s... pick a superlative. In fact pick all of them. I’d be remiss not to mention Eva (Molly Parker) too who’s the midwife at their home birth. She’s not Barbara as they’d planned, but Barbara is already with someone else in labour. It’s bad luck, sometimes plans change. It is not going to be the only thing that doesn’t go according to plan though. There’s a little close up on Eva, a tiny shake of the head, a look in her eyes. It’s heartbreaking. In that moment you’re praying for that first cry. That confirmation that it’s going to be okay. I’m not going to go into detail. Maybe it would be too much of a spoiler, maybe it’s just to painful to describe. It’s not going to be okay. Where do go from there? In a film. In life. When you lose a baby like that. Your world is ready for someone that’s not there. Down a deep dark hole. The weight of the loss, a thousand minor details thrown in on top. It’s a hard watch as the couple and their extended family struggle to cope. Cope with the loss. Cope with who’s at fault. What’s at fault. Is there fault. For all the intensity of that opening act, what follows is a slow visceral slog of people coming apart. We want them to find peace. Get answers. Rebuild. Sometimes though, that doesn’t happen. Different people cope in different ways. Martha and Sean are different. She retreats, closes up. He becomes more unstable. LeBeouf does unstable rather well. For the dramatic weight and maybe even importance of this story. It’s not a perfect film. There’s nothing wrong with the acting, the cinematography, the music, all the mechanics are spot on. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the plot. It’s just that it gets bogged down a little with disagreements that although honest, do struggle a little on screen. They trigger issues around class snobbery in the family and parental control, all underpinned by money and a looming court case against the accused responsible midwife. I am really loathed to say anything negative about it though, it feels like an important film, even if it wobbles a little. Apparently director Kornél Mundruczó and his partner had something of a similar experience. I don’t know how similar, but it certainly feels that large parts of this come from a personal painful truth. Responsible for the excellent White Gods, Mundruczó certainly knows how to punch a hole in your emotions. It’s terrible thing to happen to anyone and you just hope that those it does happen to, that they have good supportive people around them. Truly supportive. Sadly the characters here are not in that situation and it makes for difficult viewing.