Pieces of a Woman: If you’re even thinking about getting pregnant, don’t watch this film

Review: Shia LaBeouf and Vanessa Kirby play a Boston couple expecting their first child

Kirby and LaBeouf remain committed and compelling throughout.

Film Title: Pieces of a Woman

Director: Kornél Mundruczó.

Starring: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn, Benny Safdie, Sarah Snook, Molly Parker, Jimmie Fails, Iliza Schlesinger

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 125 min

Thu, Jan 7, 2021, 05:00

   

The first American picture from White God director Kornél Mundruczó concerns Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean Carson (Shia LaBeouf), a young Boston couple looking forward to the arrival of their first child.

As the film opens, Martha’s mother (a steely Ellen Burstyn) has just bought the parents-in-waiting a family-sized car, a gift which is more an expression of her financial clout than it is an act of generosity. “It’s grey like her soul,” says Sean, only half-jokingly.

The car signals a privilege gap between the blue-collar Sean and his well-to-do partner, but they are a well-matched and loving couple until the nerve-wracking (and bravura) 23-minute sequence in which their home-birth delivery goes wrong.

Their life and relationship soon disintegrate. An emotionally numb Martha returns to work, still leaking breast milk. She and Sean seek solace with other people. They are both reluctantly drawn into a court case against the now publicly vilified midwife Eva (Molly Parker). Their unravelling as a couple and as individuals is painful to behold.

The film is punctuated by big acting set-pieces, including a courtroom scene and a hellish family gathering, which includes Martha’s mother offering Sean a cheque to leave town forever and scolds: “Martha, if you’d done it my way, you’d be holding your baby in your arms right now.”

These later scenes, though powerful, can’t quite match the emotional impact of the virtuoso birthing sequence but Kirby and LaBeouf remain committed and compelling throughout. (It would be inconceivable that either would be overlooked by the Academy were it not for the news that singer-songwriter FKA Twigs is suing LaBeouf for alleged physical, mental and emotional abuse.)

There is plenty to admire here despite the dramatic lopsidedness and some rather obvious symbolism with withered houseplants and apples. The screenplay by director Mundruczó and his partner, Kata Wéber, is earthier than one might expect from the film-maker behind the surreal Jupiter’s Moon. Benjamin Loeb’s cinematography makes for a forbidding and wintry Boston. And the sense of grief weighs as heavily on the viewer as it does on the bereaved parents.

Definitely not recommended if you’re even thinking about getting pregnant.

On Netflix  from January 7th