By Ben Lindner, Staff Writer
[Bron Studios; 2020]
Empathy is hard to generate in a movie. It requires a perfect tone, rock-solid performance and brilliant direction to really get the viewer into the characters’ shoes. Luckily, Pieces of a Woman checks all of those boxes to create a fantastically devastating character piece.
Pieces of a Woman is about Martha, a woman who struggles to face her family and herself after a heartbreaking home birth.
It starts with a bang: a 24-minute long take of Martha giving birth. The scene is impossible to look away from or forget, setting the tone with a perfect balance of raw emotion and masterful filmmaking craft from director Kornél Mundruczó. Exposing the viewer to this emotional moment immediately and without interruption creates a feeling of empathy that holds for the rest of the movie, and this scene alone makes the movie worth seeing.
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This moment (and many others after it) would not have been possible without the incredible performance by Vanessa Kirby. Kirby bounces back and forth between overwhelming emotion and silent brokenness. The film very nearly loses steam after the first act, but Kirby single-handedly carries the plot toward its cathartic conclusion. It’s one of the best performances of the year, and without her, Pieces of a Woman would not be the movie that it is.
This is not to say Kirby is alone; this movie boasts a deep ensemble cast led by veteran Ellen Burstyn. The whole ensemble performs well, but their drama often fails to compare to that of Martha, sometimes pulling focus away from the heart of the story.
The film also stars Shia Labeouf as Martha’s husband. Labeouf is currently being sued by musician FKA twigs for “relentless abuse.”
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Pieces of a Woman is a hauntingly tragic story of loss and the long journey of healing. It packs a hard punch, led by Kirby’s beautiful turn as Martha. It peaks early, but the heart of the movie remains strong until the credits roll.
Watch the trailer here: