Pieces of a Woman

DirectorKornél MundruczóCastVanessa KirbyShia LaBeoufEllen Burstyn 

The first 30 minutes of this film are some of the most uncomfortable and gut-wrenching to watch of any film I’ve seen in a long time (aside from “For Sama”, which still keeps that trophy) and I suspect they might be even harder for any woman who’s ever been through a pregnancy. There’s a stark and immersive sense of realism at play here, enhanced by some spectacular performances and made even stronger by the fact that it’s all filmed in a very long uninterrupted take. All of which adds to the urgency and overgrowing sense of an excruciating dread. I felt I wanted to pause and even stop the film more than once, but I’m happy I persevered because (and this is not intended as a spoiler) there is eventually “light at the end of the tunnel”. 

And then just moments before the “resolution” of what you’ve just witness is about to hit you, the film cuts away to the main title.

Just like the characters in the film, the audience is not given time to realise what just happened, to digest it, to grieve… 

Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó (here in his first film in English) then fasts forward through the year that follows, building and building towards a cathartic ending, as the “woman” from the title, Martha, (a magnificent Vanessa Kirby who the real heart and soul of this film and deserves many many awards for this) tries to come to term to the heart-breaking and horrifying event, and we as the audience, are on a parallel journey with her. 

I thought this was a spectacular film, though one I probably never want to watch again. Interestingly it has a very low score on imdb (it has been shown on various festivals), but when you watch the breakdown of the votes you’ll find that women, especially slightly older ones, were particularly negative towards it (something which I find very interesting, though I don’t completely understand, nor agree with).

Shia LaBeouf, is equally good, producing a fearless performance and throw himself in it completely naked both emotionally and physically. And finally Ellen Burstyn who at 88 still has the power to amaze me, as she makes the most with her little role of Martha’s mother, delivering a monologue which has Oscar written all over it.

The film is out on Netflix from the 7th of January

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