Drama

Pieces of a Woman

The results of a stillbirth threatens Vanessa Kirby’s emotional state.

I often check out other movie reviews, just to be sure I’m getting my fact rights, and learn some interesting facts-elements I never really thought about or knew. I noticed that David Ehrlich of IndieWire claims that not many movies focus on miscarriages or stillbirths, and he’s right. I mean, we’ve seen this particular issue before in other dramas like “The Light Between Oceans,” which was soapy and mopey, and “Roma,” which was my favorite film of 2018. But more recently, Netflix has distributed the drama “Pieces of a Woman,” which focuses on the aftermath of it.

Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, and Ellen Burstyn provide characters, who convince us they are people going through this nightmare. I can’t imagine their pain, but I do sympathize them. They go through the motions, they express themselves through words and action, and they find the reality of it all. Not to give anything away, but it delivers on that notion.

Set in Boston, we meet a young expecting mother named Martha (Kirby), who undergoes a home birth procedure with her construction worker boyfriend Sean (LaBeouf) at her side. Unfortunately, the substitute midwife (Molly Parker) who delivers the baby has left the couple in despair, by not calling the ambulance in time, and she now faces charges of criminal negligence. At this point, it’s underdetermined who is at fault, and we know she’s not at all evil, but we’ll get to that when we get to the courtroom scene.

The aftermath has the main characters going through the motions. At one point, instead of immediately burying her, Martha plans to use the baby’s carcass for science. And at another point, Sean has to cheat on his wife with her lawyer cousin Suzanne (Sarah Snook). Those two elements are given enough basis or detail (maybe Sean has grown distant from the sad Martha, I can’t say for sure), but the one issue that really keeps you hooked is when Martha refuses to speak up against the midwife in court. There’s a gripping scene when her mother Elizabeth (Burstyn) tearfully explains to her what her grandmother (Elizabeth’s mother) went through during home birth. You have to see the tears in her eyes and hear her strong emotions.

“Pieces of a Woman” was directed by Kornel Mundruczo, a Hungarian filmmaker and theater director, best known for “Delta,” “Jupiter’s Moon,” and “White God.” In his American debut, he delivers an honest and emotionally complex portrayal of the lives for a specific couple going through stillbirths. They both come from different realities (which is one of the reasons by Elizabeth dislikes Sean), and they respond in different ways. The girl gets angry, the boy cries, and eventually the girl comes to terms with her choices in the house birth. Kirby is electrifying as the girl, LaBeouf offers sentimental moments (every time he cries, I wanted to hug him), and Burstyn makes her payoff on an explosive mark.

Again, not everything gets their analysis or interest, but we do grasp the concept and how one situation impacts on another. It all depends on how drastic the turmoil is, and who is responsible. Mundruczo and writer Kata Weber both deliver on this particular genre, and it all feels sincere and gripping. And much to my surprise, Martin Scorsese is an executive producer on this. Maybe that’s way the scenes are beautifully photographed by Benjamin Loeb, and why the characters express themselves.

Rating: 3 out of 4.

Now Playing in Select Theaters

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