Pieces of a Woman (M) - 127 minutes
A deeply traumatic beginning gives way to an emotionally wrought second and third act in Pieces of a Woman.
From a well-to-do family, Martha (Vanessa Kirby) is in a relationship with a rough and ready working class man, Sean (Shia LaBeouf).
Living in Boston, both are excitedly awaiting the birth of their first child.
Martha has opted for a home birth, but when the big day comes their midwife is engaged in another labour.
So, disappointing though that is for Martha, another midwife, Eva (Molly Parker), fills in.
Martha is in quite a deal of discomfort and pain, but everything seems to be going all right until it isn’t.
The baby’s heartbeat goes from strong to weak.
Martha gives birth to a girl and then suddenly her world collapses.
The bub turns blue and passes away.
The impact on her and Sean is monumental.
She tries to get on with her life, but can’t. She is in a world of hurt.
Martha pushes a needy Sean away.
Her opinionated mother, Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn), who wanted Martha to have a hospital birth, implores her to sue the midwife for negligence.
Sean – who Elizabeth has never thought was good enough for her daughter – is on board, but Martha is not.
Sean turns to old vices.
The pair fight.
The situation escalates.
A fierce screenplay by Kata Wéber and a series of searing performances characterise Pieces of a Woman.
As Martha, Kirby is wound tight and gives a convincing, bravura showing as a woman in despair.
LaBeouf takes the usually over-effusive Sean on a journey.
Burstyn peels back a layer of Elizabeth’s traumatic past to reveal what made her as she is.
The love/hate relationship she and Martha have is all too familiar.
Director Kornél Mundruczó (Kata Wéber’s husband) allows the narrative to breathe, with silences speaking volumes.
The fine cinematic choices taken by Benjamin Loeb, including frequent close ups, builds the feeling of isolation and suffocation.
I still feel deeply distressed by those remarkably affecting early scenes.
Pieces of a Woman is a film with significant impact.
It is on limited release in cinemas and available on Netflix on 7th January, 2021.
Rated M, it scores an 8 out of 10.