Friday, January 8, 2021

Pieces of a Woman

Pieces of a Woman offers impressive performances by Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf as a couple who lose their baby during a lengthy home birth that kicks off the movie. The extended sequence, like the rest of the film, is too long while putting the performances of its actors over any narrative or plot.

Adapting their own play, director Kornél Mundruczó and writer Kata Wéber attempt to sell us on the situation rather than the underdeveloped characters with the idea that we should feel for the couple regardless of any of their other actions. While it is interesting to see the actors hit their marks, Pieces of a Woman works more as an acting exercise than a film.

The film viscerally explores how both characters deal with their loss. In so doing, it produces several strong individual scenes which are loosely tied together by a lot downtime as the film meanders absentmindedly to the next big moment. While Kirby's character shuts down, LaBeouf and Ellen Burstyn look for someone to blame starting with the midwife (Molly Parker) who was unable to keep their child alive while waiting for EMTs to arrive.

It's hard to look at Pieces of a Woman as anything more than a mixed bag, and a grueling one to sit through. While it delves into the raw emotion of the characters, it never fully explores them. Kirby especially is kept emotionally raw or completely numb for every scene making it difficult to key into who her character is outside of the tragedy (because, at least on film, she doesn't exist outside of those moments which have redefined her life). Pushed by emotion rather that plot, the film struggles to find a way to reach any kind of resolution and what Mundruczó and Wéber provide feels ultimately incomplete and underwhelming.

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