Pieces of a Woman: Netflix Film Review

Pieces of a Woman

I’ve always thought Vanessa Kirby is a terrific actress and it looks like she may get the awards to prove it this season thanks to her devastating performance in Pieces of a Woman.

The film follows Martha (Kirby) as she navigates the months following a home birth that goes drastically and tragically wrong, culminating in her facing off against her midwife Eva (Molly Parker) in court, with her being accused of criminal negligence. The fallout of the tragedy affects her marriage to husband Sean (Shia LaBeouf) and her relationship with her family, led by matriarch Elizabeth Weiss (Ellen Burstyn).

Kirby won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year for her performance and it’s easy to see why. This is a career-defining performance and she has never been better. I’ll be amazed if she doesn’t receive nominations for this during awards season. In the much talked about birth scene, which was shot in one 22-minute take, I was floored by her. It’s such a raw, gut-wrenching watch, and I (someone who hasn’t given birth FYI) was convinced by it; it felt so real and authentic and like I was there besides her, but that’s down to the camera work too. Kirby spends the rest of the movie as this hollowed-out shell of a person who is a shadow of her former self, which she does very well, and then she delivers an emotional punch right at the end.

LaBeouf – who is currently in the headlines for a very different reason and has been subsequently removed from marketing materials and FYC campaigns – provides strong support as the fed-up husband who doesn’t know what to do to help their marriage return to what it was. His character makes some questionable choices so you have little sympathy for him though. Burstyn was the other standout performer as the caring mother who constantly rubs her daughter up the wrong way, despite her good intentions. I also cared a lot for Parker as the midwife; her performance in the birth scene tied it all together and my heart was with her more than Martha.

The birth scene takes place near the start of the movie and it grips you and doesn’t let you go for 22 minutes, but because that’s so well done, what comes after feels rather anti-climactic. It’s very grey, slow, and sombre, which obviously reflects the dark time in Martha’s life, but I just expected more from it. It ramps up once the trial begins and comes to a strong conclusion but it loses its momentum in the middle.

This isn’t an easy feel-good watch, as you might have guessed, but it tells a very poignant story and features terrific performances across the board so it’s still worth checking out.

In selected cinemas from Wednesday 30th December and on Netflix from 7th January

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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