Netflix really upped its game by presenting Pieces of a Woman as its latest Original. The film beautifully captures a woman’s grief upon losing her newborn.
Set in modern day America, Pieces of a Woman is a contemporary take on representing grief. It is the story of Martha Wiess, a woman who loses her new born daughter seconds after her birth.
While this also involves her partner Sean Carson, the film constantly centrepieces Martha’s bodily and physical turmoil in question, as a means to represent how a woman faces this trauma on a deeper level.
This loss is followed by lawsuits filed against midwife Eve Woodward who assisted the couple at the time of delivery. A hint of courtroom drama also follows suit.
The first 25 minutes of the film are dedicated to child birth sequences that are shot using realistic camera techniques. Post the loss, the remaining duration is fixated on every character and how they grieve.
Pieces of a Woman is defined by its performances. Vanessa Kirby plays Martha and owns the frame every time she shows up. The child birth sequence was visibly one of the most challenging scenes from the film. Both as a viewer and as a performer, the intricacies are supposed to create discomfort, warmth and yearning. Kirby skillfully manages to steer through, almost as if she was actually in labor.
Shia LaBeouf as Sean compliments her and his role perfectly. His character involves ample shape-shifting as part of grieving for his daughter. While the gray shades of his personality aren’t supposed to fit well with the viewers, his poignant acting and self-awareness make up for an engaging watch.
Academy Award winning actor Ellen Burstyn plays Martha’s mother Elizabeth. Viewers might recall her from Requiem for a Dream. The two roles are starkly different, yet both become proof of her potential. Pieces of a Woman seldom shines light on her separately, but her dynamics with family spill the beans efficiently.
Molly Parker plays midwife Eve. While her performance is commendable, she only appears in the beginning and at the end of the film.
Inarguably, Pieces of a Woman is an important film. It was first screened at the 77th Venice International Film Festival, where Kirby won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress. She truly is the pilot of this ship.
The film uses the camera as the storyteller. It constitutes of several long takes that begin with one emotion and end at something else.
The frames visibly try to put Martha at the heart of the scene. Even as other characters talk, she is in focus. As other characters experience joy or leisure, the camera pins at Martha standing alone somewhere.
Colors are used in contrast to display internal emotions that are too strong to be influenced by the surroundings sometimes. For instance, the entire sequence when she is in labor is covered in beige overtones but Martha and Sean are truly happy that their daughter is arriving. Post the loss, the frames often light up with dark and bright colors but that doesn’t minutely affect Martha’s deep-rooted grief.
For most part, the film lets the camera or the surroundings speak. But sometimes, it tries to spell out the obvious. For instance, after a long take where Martha and Sean address their conflict, the camera only cuts to show undone dishes and dry plants at home.
Elizabeth’s character starts narrating her birth story that involved a ghetto war and the need to stay kaput, in the middle of a raging fight with Martha. This shift seems bizarre and falls far away from the grief that surrounds Martha.
Pieces of a Woman is one of the most mainstream films by director Kornél Mundruczó. It would be a good opportunity for people to experience what he has in store for cinema lovers.
The film takes its time in telling the story but it is surely worth the wait.