Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: Pieces of a Woman

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Copyright: Netflix

Further cementing my fear of coming anywhere close to fatherhood, Pieces of a Woman presents a series of tense, heart-breaking moments almost immediately. It picks up, for lack of a better word, the pieces of a family who find themselves shot down by various tragedies. Most prominent is the heartbreak of childbirth, the beauty is nowhere to be found, and that driving force picks up a fair deal of the strained and expectant characters, waiting in the background for something to do. A film which fares better the longer its audience can attach themselves to a story of relatively upsetting threads, but ones that are generally well known and traipsed through often.  

Tragedy is the key to Pieces of a Woman, but it is strained and leaves itself far too open. A first act that replicates some strong sentiments of strain and struggle, the after effects of which ripple through the remaining hour and a half with disappointing results. Vanessa Kirby, however, is an effective lead, one that provides consistency in the worst of times. Her role as the tragedy-stricken Martha takes her through an intense scope of emotions, all of which will serve her well come awards season. She picks up the emotive range and scale of a woman thrust into the grief of losing someone, and all the signs around her that are there to showcase it. An agonizing first half-hour do show the embers of a strong performances, but water is poured on this over time, and eventually the steam is clear, a frustrating cough erupts from Kirby, signalling that Pieces of a Woman has given us all it can offer in just half an hour.  

With LaBeouf’s short-lived comeback to the fold of serious acting, Pieces of a Woman gives him a lot to work with, but has little in the way of charm. His performance is exactly what it should be, never pushing beyond that of a distant but loving husband. LaBeouf doesn’t fail to bring additional charms, but they’re few and far between. With a rather irritating presence at times, he doesn’t exactly excel in the role of emotional foundation, for good or ill. He isn’t distant enough to present a real challenge, nor is he close enough to this leading character to describe any forms of real abandonment, which does feel Kornél Mundruczó’s intention here. All things considered, Mundruczó presents nothing new, mere flashes of entertainment or faux chills that will be better adapted elsewhere.  

Compare Pieces of a Woman with that of John Cassavetes’ work. How A Woman Under the Influence and Pieces of a Woman reflect one another is a stark comparison of strongly written characters who rally around someone in times of trouble. The contrasts are clear, and it is a sad shame to see that this style of narrative was perfected long before, especially when this Netflix original can do nothing to improve on where it takes its influences from. With gentle touches of the camera, slowly fanning around these characters with little ability or time to make itself known. That issue transcends the screen, pours into the characters and meshes with what little promise and interest can be found within. Pieces of a Woman feels like a thousand other films, ironically there are pieces of just about everything within, but none of it comes across as unique or reflective, instead, it gathers up tropes and trials for the leading cast, and does little to describe itself as an individual.