Kornél Mundruczó latest film is about grief and womanhood. The film tasks itself with portraying one of the most magical things in life: childbirth. Society places a great deal of pressure on pregnant women to be perfect. But, what happens when childbirth goes wrong? Since pregnancy is a very public event, the loss of a child is as well. And when tragedy strikes, society is quick to cast blame.
The film begins with an incredible half-hour-long sequence of Vanessa Kirby giving birth. This prologue is so gripping and emotionally intense that it will surely leave you out of breath. But the problem with starting the film with such an intense performance is that it sets high expectations for the rest of the film. And while the film has a good grasp of its themes of grief and womanhood, it fails to sustain this momentum into its second and third acts. That is not to say the film lacks powerful scenes throughout and that it isn’t compelling as a whole.
Pieces of a Woman‘s incredible performances might be its most compelling element. Its cast stars Vanessa Kirby, Ellen Burstyn, Benny Safdie, and Shia LaBeouf. Kirby and Burstyn stand-out. Kirby gives a towering performance as a grieving woman (one of the best of the year) that is surely headed to the Oscars. And Ellen Burstyn plays Kirby’s mother in one of the best supporting performances we have seen in a while.
Pieces of a Woman is adeptly filmed, often featuring beautiful photography and thoughtful direction, but it ultimately feels incomplete. Time passes inconsequentially because of how many time jumps the film features, which creates a feeling that something was missed in the story. Too focused on moving the plot forward, the film feels almost mechanical. To complicate things further the film confuses by obscuring its location: constantly referring to Seattle while being filmed in Montreal and set in Massachusetts. But if you can ignore these jarring details, the performances and meticulously directed scenes are worth your time. The pieces of its puzzle are there even if they don’t seem to fit together.
Director: Kornél Mundruczó
Writer: Kata Wéber