A long, winding shot, probably all at once. In it we see Vanessa Kirby’s character Martha going through the movements of birth. It’s an uncomfortable, uncomfortable experience as a viewer, and I mean that in the best possible sense. Thanks to Kirby’s strong skills, I could feel the character’s discomfort even though I didn’t feel her physical pain. Their long moans, confusion, and swearing contributed to the scene, which was instantly believable thanks to the actor’s body language. It is this sense of credibility, this sense of something that is gnawing at you, that Kirby moves forward with in the director’s pieces by a woman by Kornél Mundruczó.
Pieces of a Woman, starring Shia LaBeouf and Ellen Burstyn in major roles, is an intricate, poignant picture of grief brought to life by Vanessa Kirby’s powerful performance. What also helps her a lot is the fact that Pieces of a Woman is a character-driven film, not a plot-driven film. The narration is simple and predictable for the T. What elevates them is the well-worked, painfully drawn sketch by Martha Weiss. A strong, independent woman who takes up her pieces after an irrevocable loss.
After Martha learns of her child’s death, she endures her pain like a stoic. She always looks stone, cool and calm. She doesn’t want a funeral. She doesn’t want to be reminded of the pain. It becomes their pain. Deaf and silently wounded like a warrior. Sometimes like a cruel warrior who doesn’t bother to listen to her loved ones. Everything, everyone is a blur. These are difficult moments for an actor. Whining, letting the feelings out seems obvious and maybe even the simpler and more “natural” approach. But because Martha is like a wall, Kirby has to be one too. It has to express itself without expressing itself. A challenging task for an artist, which Vanessa Kirby can handle. This feat becomes even more incredible when you learn that Kirby herself never gave birth or never experienced motherhood. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the actress revealed that she could watch a woman give birth, doing what she did in the first few minutes of the film. “It was the most amazing generous act, and I knew I could never have started without really witnessing what it actually is,” said Kirby.
Pieces of a Woman is largely a silent film. There are few dramatic exchanges. Silence, symbols and Martha are the three main components of the film. Martha’s silence after the loss, the symbolism that Martha conserves the seeds of apples, the drying plants, the unwashed, stacked plates in her house, her unkempt hair and her soft but mocking laugh – these are the components of Kornél Mundruczó’s film . If you can sit through the silence and listen for signals as a woman is breaking up, Pieces of a Woman is the movie for you.
Pieces of a Woman starring Iliza Shlesinger and Molly Parker is streamed on Netflix.