Vanessa Kirby gives a masterful, must-see turn in Pieces of a Woman

PIECES OF A WOMAN: (L to R) Molly Parker as Eva and Vanessa Kirby as Martha.
PIECES OF A WOMAN: (L to R) Molly Parker as Eva and Vanessa Kirby as Martha. /

Is Pieces of a Woman good?

Pieces of a Woman proves to be an exceptional film with an incredibly enthralling showcase of superb performances from its main players.

Netflix has been known to put out some exceptional titles that are filled with exemplary performances, and it’s safe to assume that many people were assuming that Pieces of a Woman would easily be next in line to join the ranks of such critically praised motion pictures as Roma, The Irishman, and Marriage Story. While there is no denying the uniformly great work from the cast, the overall film feels more like it’s on par with what it is supposed to be rather than exceed expectations.

The Kornél Mundruczó-directed flick written by Kata Wéber offers Netflix subscribers a solid film worth watching. The story is compelling, but it ultimately gets eclipsed by the magnetic turns for the star-studded cast, some of which give career-defining turns. The overall narrative feels a bit sidelined at times and ultimately comes off as a performance-driven piece that doesn’t necessarily take away from the heart-wrenching experience but probably means it will be remembered as such.

The story follows a couple and their family dealing with emotional fallout after their baby unexpectedly dies during a home birth that doesn’t go as planned. A trial looms throughout the film that could decide if the midwife involved, who wasn’t the mother’s first choice, could go to prison for negligence. But the real focus is Martha, the mother of the fallen child, and her partner Sean, who has never been liked by Martha’s mother.

Both Martha and Sean deal with the grief in different ways, drifting apart in the process. Everything from deciding what to do with the body to the handling of a civil case feels very genuine in the movie, and the performances really drive home the Netflix original’s powerful message regarding loss, forgiveness, and moving on.

One element that really stands out is when the movie starts out with Sean’s character working on a bridge where he claims that he promised his daughter that she would be the first to walk across it. As the film progresses, construction on the bridge continues, which serves as a well thought out and brilliantly executed metaphor for the story.

Every scene evokes some kind of emotion from its audience, and it all feels extremely real. Even the birthing scene, which everyone watching knew wasn’t going to end well, provided pitch-perfect tension and really did a magnificent job of grabbing the audience’s attention, allowing them to feel connected to the rest of the narrative.

The end result is a well-crafted take on the loss of a newborn and the unbearable aftermath that follows. The emotional fallout and lingering feeling of trying to pretend everything is okay runs rampant throughout the flick and makes it very easy for viewers to feel like they are part of this harrowing ordeal, adding significant value to the experience. But what really makes Pieces of a Woman a worthwhile affair is the gripping performances from its amazing roster of talent.

Vanessa Kirby is a tour de force on screen, and words cannot describe her magnetic performance. She is able to convey so much to the audience without saying a word. Whether it’s her eyes or mannerisms, she fully embodies the grieving mother with utter excellence, and it feels safe to say that she completely crushes it in this role.

The monologue in the courtroom really seals the deal on her legendary performance like a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth, further proving that Kirby is Hollywood’s next leading lady and that she should be revered as a force to be reckoned with in the industry. The Crown actress is no longer the Princess Margaret of acting, and Pieces of a Woman can definitely go down as her coronation as the Queen of movies.

Shia Labeouf’s take on Sean is pretty on point and proves that despite his many flaws off-screen, he is still a compelling player in front of the camera. The issues in his personal life will probably eclipse his stellar turn, but for those keeping score on just, the acting factor can recognize the robust value he adds opposite Kirby’s brilliant run in Pieces of a Woman.

Ellen Burstyn makes a strong case for another Oscar as Martha’s overbearing mother who shows signs of memory loss. There are times viewers will not like what she has to say and then there are moments that everyone is rooting her on. There are also points where one realizes the tough position she is in and that hard choices that have to be made sometimes that don’t always turn out with a happy ending for everyone.

Her character’s arc spectacularly matches well with Martha’s about how truly challenging motherhood can be and that all who embark on that task are warriors in their own right. The monologue about her birth is amazing, shocking, and inspiring, and the highlight of the entire film.

An insane amount of praise needs to go to Iliza Shlesinger and Ben Safdie, who come out of nowhere with some exceptional performances of their own. They take full advantage of their limited screentime showcasing their range and ability to run with some seasoned veterans. It’s no doubt fans will be seeing the celebrated comedian and award-winning filmmaker will be flexing their drama muscles a lot more down the line.

Even Lost in Space and House of Cards alum Molly parker gives a grounded and authentic run as the midwife. From her exceptional poise during the birthing scene to her ability to convey so much from facial expressions alone adds to the film and nicely complements the other brilliant turns in this performance-driven and heart-wrenching drama.

On a final note, everyone knows that losing a child would be a very difficult thing to endure but when they have to witness it, the ordeal becomes something else entirely and resonates with viewers on a much deeper level. If Pieces of a Woman gets anything right, it definitely helps people understand a bit better about the impossible place grieving couples go to when this happens, and the only thing that can even come close to fixing anything is time.

There is no denying that Kirby will definitely receive awards attention for her run in the film, and it would be surprising if Ellen Burstyn didn’t take home some gold as well. All in all, Pieces of a Woman is a solid flick anchored by some outstanding performances that will leave viewers with a teary-eyed, heart-wrenching, and at times, inspiring experience that will become a classic for the streaming service and a gorgeously realized film to enjoy for many years to come.

Film Grade: B+

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