Pieces of a Woman

Pieces of a Woman ★★★

I don't know what to feel after watching Pieces of a Woman. For one, I'm definitely the right person to say whether or not this film's portrayal of the consequences of stillbirth is an accurate representation for those who have gone through such a horribly tragic experience. Two, I can't entirely decide whether this film actually manages to treat its subject matter with the respect it deserves, as its focus seems to be all over the place.

With all due respect, Vanessa Kirby lifts this film from utter mediocrity. If I were to rate this film solely by her leading performance alone, I would rank it at least four stars. She commands the screen with a subtle vulnerability that makes Martha's tragedy feel that more impactful than the film's direction did. Aside from the excellent opening 30 minutes or so, Martha's breakdown towards her mother Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn) when she is confronted about the case against her midwife Eva (Molly Parker) is an absolutely devastating display of Kirby's acting talent. The cinematography was great as well, as it underscored Martha's loss without being too overbearing in its use of toned-down colors and close angles to heighten the intimacy of the film.

However, as I insinuated earlier, the direction and writing doesn't seem to do the film's subject matter any favors. Instead of having its primary focus on Martha's inner turmoil, the focus is instead more on Martha's family and her boyfriend Sean (Shia LaBeouf). Sure, some welcome levity was present with the odd couple of Anita (Iliza Shlesinger) and Chris (Benny Safdie), but every other character were either underused or as melodramatic as they could get. Sarah Snook and Molly Parker could have used more screentime, and less should have been spent on Ellen Burstyn and Shia LaBeouf chewing the scenery. Ellen Burstyn just came off too cartoony for me, to the point that I could barely take her seriously, and the questionable mannerisms of Shia LaBoeuf, including mealy-mouthed delivery and constant dishonest moping, just became distracting as all hell. It's sad that a film about serious topic didn't zoom in enough on said topic, because for some reason, it would rather focus on eccentric personalities trying to take over the victim's life. Which, however, there is sadly some truth to, as some people would try to use such a horrible experience for their own gain, but it wouldn't be done as cartoonish as this film does it. Try some subtlety in your writing and directing, instead of just bludgeoning the audience's faces with a sledgehammer next time!

In conclusion, Pieces of a Woman is at its best an immersive tragic drama about a serious subject matter that needs more exploration in cinema. Vanessa Kirby lifts this film with a jaw-dropping performance, but the film is ultimately bogged down by its misguided focus and melodramatic writing. I can only recommend for Vanessa Kirby's acting.

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