'Pieces Of A Woman' Review
Plot Synopsis: A heartbreaking home birth leaves a woman grappling with the profound emotional fallout, isolated from her partner and family by a chasm of grief.
Based on the play created by the couple consisting of director Kornel Mondruczo and writer Kata Weber, 'Pieces Of A Woman' is the latest film to make the transition from the stage onto the big screen. Initially, the partners applied to get funding for this film in their native Hungary where they were unable to get the film off the ground. However, the story caught the attention of producers in America, eventually gaining support from Martin Scorsese.
The creative duo's experiences in Theatre is evident straightaway as the audience is introduced to a breathtaking 25-minute continuous take depicting the childbirth. This scene is plucked straight from the stage using a single setting with a long take allowing the audience to connect to the characters whilst allowing the actors to truly flex their acting chops. The fluidity of the camera work within this real-life setting adds so much to the realism as there is no time to take a breath in a sequence that doesn't shirk from showcasing this devastating moment. It is a gruelling piece of cinema as having knowledge of the film's premise brings an incredible sense of dread incoming, made worse by a number of wholesome moments sprinkled throughout the procedure. The pacing of this scene combined with the performances are absolutely exceptional, with the process being handled expertly well with subtle nods leaning towards something going wrong. In terms of openings to a film, it really doesn't get much more realistic or heartbreaking as this.
It would be easy from this point to wind up getting the rest of the film mixed up with its ferocious start but sadly, 'Pieces Of A Woman' really fails to live up to its opening half an hour. The momentum of the film soon comes to quite a halt with its use of time jumps that really hinder the film, skipping over several weeks at a time. Due to this, we don't really get to see a natural progression of the characters' struggles, often leading to changes in the side characters that really need a bit more depth. The first time around it works well as it shows a duality of how the couple and those around them are reacting to the recent tragedy, laying down the foundations for the story to progress. However, the film really doesn't capitalise on this and the certain issues brought up are largely neglected in later points, skipping the couple's struggle and journey through their mourning for the most part.
This is by far the film's biggest blight as it becomes rather unfocused by telling quite an incoherent sequence of events and leaving a lot of these subjects lacking depth. The main character herself has to share the screen with a bunch of different stories from outside that leads to her story being overshadowed, perhaps the film's biggest issue. A claim can be made that this is intentional with these people forcing their agendas onto her without asking what she wants but when it spirals into other people's personal issues, it completely loses steam. There are good ideas within this but the creators never truly decide on what route they want to follow, leading to it really failing to live up to its incredible beginning.
The saving consistent grace of the film does come in the form of tremendous performances, none more so than from the wonderful Vannessa Kirby. Kirby is incredible throughout in what is a performance that will be talked about a lot during this unusual award season. The opening sequence will be the most talked-about part of her role, with her performance being so lifelike that should she one day decide to have children, she'll struggle to match the realness from this film. Despite the film being reasonably messy, Kirby manages to make everything she is a part of work with a beautiful performance of a struggling woman. Credit must go to supporting stars Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn and Molly Parker who are also great with what they have to work with. LaBeouf has quite a complex role due to the film's narrative as his character jumps between different stages of grief without much context or progression whilst Burstyn's overbearing role as a mother is expertly displayed.
As mentioned previously, it would be easy to let the impact of that opening half an hour overshadow the rest of the film but 'Pieces of a Woman' doesn't deliver after an exceptional start. The jump from the stage to a feature film is clearly noticeable but could have done with further development to make it not feel as disjointed or lacking focus. The performances are the highlight by far but are weighed down by an interesting approach that doesn't quite hit the mark.