PIECES OF A WOMAN
Running Time: 127 mins.
Where Can You See It?: Netflix
Premise: In the wake of a heartbreaking home birth, a couple (The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf) try to pick up the pieces of their emotionally shattered lives, isolated from each other and surrounded by grief.
Behind-the-Scenes: Premiered at Sundance in January 2020 to great acclaim, and Oscar buzz for Kirby’s lead performance. Shia LaBeouf is the second lead and has been largely absent from the publicity tour due to the fallout from his abuse allegations.
The Good: The first 30 minutes feature what appears to be one long take, focused on the home birth of Kirby’s pregnant character. A virtuoso piece of acting and directing, it’s a harrowing, intense opening – like Saving Private Ryan but on a much smaller, personal scale – and only when the title card appears after that half-hour are you able to breathe. Kirby is outstanding and deserves all the critical accolades she’s been getting. She gets put through the emotional wringer in this film, and never once plays anything false or flashy, despite some obvious melodramatic moments. Ellen Burstyn absolutely crushes her supporting role as Kirby’s mom, and delivers an Oscar-worthy monologue. LaBeouf is also pretty great – shame if his personal life somehow diminishes the work others have done here. The measured pace and tone allow the viewer to really settle in with these characters and get to know them.
The Bad: The rest of the movie can’t compete with the opening 30 minutes. It peaks there, and grows progressively less interesting as it goes along. The direction by Kornel Mundruczo is both staggeringly great at times, and really odd – with some distracting close-ups on necks in the climactic courtroom scene that take the viewer out of the film. The script doesn’t quite stick the emotional landing, leaving LaBeouf’s character and other subplots out to dry.
Should You See It?: Yes. It’s not an easy watch, and those triggered by family tragedies in their own lives will probably want to avoid it, but the acting is top notch, and, if you can stomach it, the first 30 minutes are some of the best filmmaking of the year and more than warrant a watch.
Star Rating: ***1/2 out of 5 stars
Better Than: Rabbit Hole, A Monster Calls
Worse Than: Manchester by the Sea
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