Serious warning: The first 30-minutes of "Pieces of a Woman" is incredibly hard to watch, especially for anyone who has ever suffered any sort of loss. You've been warned.
That being said, watching actress Vanessa Kirby pick up the pieces of her life after an unthinkable tragedy destroys it, is an absolutely riveting experience that makes "Pieces of A Woman" a vital watch for anyone looking to fill out their Oscar scorecards.
MILD PLOT SPOILERS TO FOLLOW:
Everything in the life of Martha (Kirby) and her husband Sean (Shia LaBeouf) seems normal. He works a tough, blue collar job, they have a nice home and they're expecting a baby any minute now. Martha is determined to have a natural home birth, so it throws them off a bit when their preferred midwife is not available for their delivery, being in the middle of another delivery elsewhere. On her high recommendation, another midwife, Eva (Molly Parker), is assigned, and they begin preparations for the new addition to their family.
I watch over 200 movies per year and have seen it all, but that still did not prepare me for the first act. Captured masterfully all in one shot that lasts nearly 20 minutes, director Kornéll Mundruczo puts us right in the room with Martha, Eva and Sean. We end up wanting to be anywhere else once things go horribly, horribly wrong.
In the months and year to follow, Martha is a dead-woman walking, her soul literally taken from her body and crushed. She goes through the motions of life. Sean, who loves his wife, cannot connect with her in any meaningful way. Martha's mother, Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn), is out for justice and her actions force Martha to deal with her emotions more than she wants to. A scene late in the film between Burstyn and Kirby is so potent, so full of drama and so poignantly written and acted, that it should not only cement Kirby in the Best Actress conversation, but it should also catapult Burstyn into the Supporting category as well.
The examination of this woman, and her journey through tragedy, is intense and powerful, and never is it mined for melodrama. Everything about "Pieces of a Woman" feels real, and without wrapping things up in a neat little bow, Mundruczo allows his characters to grow in somewhat unexpected ways.
No film will stick with you quite like "Pieces of a Woman" does. These pieces, when reassembled and reconstructed, can never be what they once were. That person is gone. But Martha's journey sure does come together to form a mesmerizing character study in loss, guilt, love and above all, forgiveness.
Run Time: 2 hours 6 minutes.
Starring: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn, Benny Safdie, Sarah Snook, Molly Parker.
Directed by Kornél Mundruczo ("Jupiter's Moon," "White God," "Delta").
"Pieces of a Woman" is available on Netflix on Friday, January 8th, 2021.
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