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Pieces of a Woman: An Excellent Film That Explores Grief, Loss and Sadness

December 1, 2020

Thoughts – Adapted from their 2018 stage play, Director Kornél Mundruzcó and writer Kata Wéber make an excellent English language debut with Pieces of a Woman. Grade – A

Releasing on Netflix in January 2021, the film focuses on the fallout of a complicated home birth that ends tragically. The majority of the press will be focused on the super intricate 22-minute single take shot that kicks off the film, but, after those harrowing 22 minutes, get ready for a story rarely seen on screen. What makes Pieces of a Woman work so well are the quieter moments that showcase the excellent performances from Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn, Sarah Snook, Ben Safdie and Iliza Shlesinger.

Filmed with a fly on the wall sensibility, the cinematography by Benjamin Loeb (who also shot Mandy, one of my favorite movies of recent memory), allows us to watch as Martha (Kirby) attempts to go about her life after the tragedy. The film always shows, and rarely tells as she attempts to go back to work, deal with a grief-stricken mother, and cope with a marriage that is falling apart, as Sean (LaBeouf) , her husband, falls back into addiction. The experience is often harrowing, but it’s also rewarding as Mundruzcó and Wéber allow the performances to breathe with long static shots, and show us just enough to prove that they respect the viewers, and their ability to put all the pieces together. For instance, Martha’s decision to have her child be used for medical research, shocks her mother and husband, however, it’s clear (without her saying) that she wants the loss to mean something, and that means providing something that could help children in the future. 

While the examination of grief and sadness will alienate viewers looking for a casual viewing experience, Pieces of a Woman is worth watching because it’s something people rarely see. Also, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-them moments enrich the film, and if you aren’t watching closely, you might confuse the experience as empty (several critics have done this), which is sad because it’s loaded with excellent moments and depth. 

Watching excellent actors inhabiting a wonderfully shot world is always a good thing. I appreciated the uncomfortable moments, and the descent into grief felt earned and real. The movie doesn’t make it easy, and it rarely explores the inner feelings of the characters, and because of that, we were given something exciting and unique. 

Make sure to catch Pieces of a Woman when it is released on Netflix!

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