Kornél Mundruczó (director)
2h 6mins (length)
31 December 2022 (released)
10 January 2021
Vanessa Kirby won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year for her performance in Pieces of a Woman and it’s easy to see why.
In the drama, she plays Martha, who we follow as she navigates the months after 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 has never been better and she delivers a devastating, career-best performance, which is saying something since her turn as Princess Margaret in The Crown earned her awards and nominations. It'll be surprising if she doesn't receive recognition for this during the upcoming awards season.
The much-hyped birth scene, which was shot in one 22-minute take, is a raw, gut-wrenching watch, and it was totally convincing; it felt so real and authentic and the camera work makes you feel like you're there with them during this pivotal, life-changing moment.
Kirby spends the rest of the movie as this hollowed-out shell of a person, someone who is a shadow of her former self, and she handles this task very well, then she hits you in the feelings once more towards the end.
LaBeouf provides strong support as the fed-up husband who doesn’t know what to do to help his mourning wife, how to cope with his own grief or make their marriage return to what it was. You would have some sympathy for him if he didn't make such questionable decisions.
Burstyn was another standout as the caring mother who constantly rubs her daughter up the wrong way, despite her good intentions, while Parker deserves a mention as her performance in the birth scene tied it all together and you can't help but feel sorry for her.
The birth scene, which thoroughly deserves the hype surrounding it, takes place near the start of the movie and it grips you and doesn’t let you go for 22 minutes. However, 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 you can't help but feel it has lost its momentum.
Unsurprisingly, this isn’t a feel-good watch, but it tells a very poignant story and features terrific performances across the board so it’s still worth checking out.
In selected cinemas now and on Netflix from 7th January.