"I don't want them to judge you."
Intricate and complex, Kornél Mundruczó's Pieces of a Woman is a beautifully enriched look at the emotional struggles that accompany grief and heartbreak.
Vanessa Kirby stars as Martha, a young woman who must deal with the harsh reality that life will never be the same after a routine home birth ends in absolute tragedy. A once lively and prospering mother-to-be, she finds herself lost in the emotions, unsure of her next move as she works to coexist alongside her partner (a vulnerable Shia LaBeouf) and mother (Ellen Burstyn).
The film features an opening sequence that is equally beautiful and heart-wrenching as you witness the emotional rollercoaster a pair of people experience as they see their future wilt before their very eyes. The moments are uncomfortable, especially for those who aren't entirely sure what to expect. Even though you feel an impulse to shield your eyes, the situation's fragility yearns for a deeper understanding, a more thorough digestion.
It is this tone that allows Pieces of a Woman to excel. Granted, Mundruczó struggles to maintain the emotional toll of those first several minutes; the film relies heavily on your investment. Sending Martha on a year-long odyssey of grief and frustration, diving into her mental health as she struggles to cope, the film pushes on as she attempts to learn to live with, not in vain.
Kirby shines as she fully embodies the situation's emotional uncertainty, giving a pulse to the pain, a visual to the heartache. Accomplishing more with her actions than her words, Kirby's Martha speaks loud and clear as she grapples with the loss, struggling to live with herself as the relationships around her begin to crumble.
It is here that the film settles into itself. Though the opening sequence's intoxication slowly dwindles, Pieces of a Woman beautifully transitions from a play of emotions to a situational character study. Gone are the emotional highs, the romance, the excitement. Now we witness a woman lost in her thoughts as she begins to self interrogate, the what-ifs running rampant.
Kirby's chemistry with LaBeouf is tremendous, driving home the effects such a life-altering moment can have on a relationship. They struggle differently, internally dealing with the situation. It's painful to watch, especially as an outsider. As their once blossoming future continues to decay, you begin to understand better the strains felt and the disinterest in salvaging what they once had.
Unable to fully grasp her daughter's emotional delicacy, Martha's mother pushes for a civil case to ensure that someone pays for the events that occurred on that fateful night. The story is an interesting background arc that ultimately shows its purpose during the film's final moments. Granted, it takes us some time to get there, and the journey is a bit watered down, but it allows Kirby to deliver a profound monologue that will chill you to the bone. It's a haunting moment, coming at the end of a haunting story, one that gives an all too real situation a voice and paints a humane picture of the internal struggles concerning grief, guilt, and loss.
*This film is streaming globally on Netflix.