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Pieces of a Woman Movie Review - Broken Pieces

In Pieces of a Woman, a couple is engulfed by grief after the demise of their child. 


We have frequently witnessed childbirth in our movies. All follow the same routine: a crying woman is taken inside the delivery room, after which, we are either shifted outside with the family/relatives or are inside with doctors and the husband, witnessing the process. Both of the scenarios share one thing in common - the painful screams coming from the pregnant woman, which again is either set in a comical tone or a critical one. Be it any approach, we are always treated as an observer attending one of the most difficult moments in a woman's life. But not in Pieces of a Woman, the Kornél Mundruczó film written by Kata Wéber that is streaming on Netflix. 


On the night Martha Weiss (an outstanding Vanessa Kirby) goes into labor, her husband, Sean Carson (a terrific Shia LaBeouf), calls their midwife Barbara and finds out she is unavailable. Fret not as she sends in a replacement, a woman named Eva (Molly Parker). Eva is cordial, "I know you were expecting Barbara, and I know it's always a bit weird when things change, but I'm so happy to be here, okay?" and assuring, "You're doing so great. Breathe." But the change in a midwife is one of the many things going wrong in this scene. On the surface, we are told that everything will be alright, but deep down, our guts say otherwise. Both Eva and Sean comfort Martha with smiles and sweet talks, but you catch tension rolling up on the face. Mundruczó introduces uncertainty, keeping us on edge by filming in an uninterrupted long take. He sets the stage by using this technique in the opening of the film. It places us right in the middle of the commotion and converts the viewer into an active participant. In this way, we feel Martha's agonizing pain. No other film or "delivery scene" before had this effect on me where I "identified" with a woman's discomfort during her labor. 


And so I welcomed the release, the slow pacing that followed, acting as a breather after a physical endurance. The results of the previous moments are not directly announced, but you are able to guess the outcome. Martha's unemotional face and her co-workers' silent gazes indicate that the baby didn't survive the birth. A case has been filed against Eva, holding her responsible for the death. Martha is not concerned with it. Though her mother, Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn, superb), pushes her to fight. Martha has other plans. She wants to donate the baby's body to the university for research purposes. Sean opposes, so does everyone else. 


Every couple has their own way of dealing with grief. If the one in Antichrist (2009) chose to shelter themselves in a remote cabin, Martha and Sean decide to shelter themselves within their own skin/thoughts/headspace. It creates a rift causing a distance in the relationship. One starts accusing the other of being cold. The conversations are deprived of emotions. When they ask each other about their day, the response comes across as formal and lacks genuine care. Gradually, the love is depleted, giving rise to hate. At one point, Sean hits Martha on her face with a gym ball. It does not lead to a Marriage Story-type argument. It's as if they don't find it worth to quarrel with each other. Any sort of vehemence is shielded between them. Expectedly, both drift away from each other. 


Amazingly, Mundruczó dedicates so much time to the slow grieving process even when something as exciting as a court hearing is present at his disposal. He could have easily steered the narrative in favor of the court procedural, knocking us with debates and grievous sentimentality of the situation. Mundruczó does not even run the two things parallelly. Instead, he provides the luxury of time to his characters, who use it to grieve and heal from the tragedy. The court part is often brought up for seconds in the middle portions. Even when it finally arrives, the spotlight lasts for a short time because Pieces of a Woman is about moving on in life. It is about acceptance and coming face to face with reality. 

Pieces of a Woman uses the shot of a bridge under construction from both sides to move from one time to another. I could have done without the visual of the broken pieces of ice under the bridge and Mundruczó's use of the structure to signify the filling of gaps in the character's lives. It seems too pushy. I was also not entirely on board with the final establishment of a bond betwixt a mother and a daughter. The point is arrived at logically but not executed properly. Therefore, it's not so touching. But these shattered pieces don't take away from the contentment of watching the journey of a woman.

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from Movie Reviews https://moviesinmydna.blogspot.com/2021/01/pieces-of-woman-movie-review-broken.html
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