'Pieces of a Woman' review: When loss rebuilds, you relate
It was a tough decision to watch a Shia LaBeouf film after FKA Twigs's narrative about the murderous extent to which he took himself to stay in characters. However, you'd be doing injustice to Vanessa Kirby, let alone director Kornél Mundruczó's brilliant work, if you missed Pieces of a Woman on Netflix. Here's a drama designed to get you out of your comfort zone.
You sway from discomfort to helplessness as the film starts with the hurry of Sean, a father-to-be, throwing his weight around while on duty as a construction worker. He checks the work schedule of colleagues and sub-ordinates on the fly as he rushes to take care of his pregnant wife Martha, who is nearing her delivery date. Sean, played by LaBeouf, loves his wife.
You ignore the surroundings and adjust when you can't, only if you are dependent on someone emotionally. Similarly, Sean ignores the prickly insinuations by his mother-in-law Elizabeth, played by Ellen Burstyn, and laughs forcefully when she tries to assert herself in buying the couple their first car. That is when you start pardoning the performer in LaBeouf because he does his job well.
In fact, he does it so well that he looks like he'd sell his soul to the devil to ease the pain Martha experiences during her labor. The one-shot sequence that captures her swinging bouts of pain, the incessant belches, and the pressure out of which she soils herself unknowingly inside a bathtub. But the couple has got confident midwife Eva on her job.
Kirby's Martha, who heaves, howls, whimpers, and grabs LaBeouf's collars for relief, would make any man, forget a woman, get a hint of that overpowering pain right down to his stomach. Eva notices anomalies in the baby's heart rate and alerts Sean to call 911 when that repeats. The baby, born alive, gets blue all over and dies. The film's title flashes then.
Days later, Martha strides faster than she should, strengthens herself more than she should, while the world conspires to break her through fake sympathy. Her mother's friends wear her down mentally with pretentious concern. She's in no state to care for Sean, a grieving father who overrides himself to support her and beg for burial, as she fixates on body donation of the baby.
Both make mistakes, but the man loses self-restraint, goes astray, convincing the family that they weren't meant to last. Barring that targeted character assassination of a man who fell out of love, one would sympathize with the fact that Mundruczó and writer Kata Wéber made the film out of their experience as a couple having suffered a miscarriage. The depressing journey deserves a 4/5.