Review: Pieces of a Woman (Netflix)

“Pieces of a Woman” succeeds at doing what the movie sets out to do, which is to make the viewer feel depressed and heartbroken for a little over two hours.

*minor spoilers are present in the review. However, little more than already detailed in the trailer

This film will likely have a very niche audience. Parents may find it particularly impactful as well as those who have experienced a similar tragedy. The film will have a place among certain audiences, but it is certainly not intended for everyone.

The movie tells the story of a mother’s attempt to resume life following the tragic death of her baby in childbirth. Showing the brutal reality of how such a tragic event can tear apart a family and just how hard it is to move on afterwards.

Not Easy Viewing

The film was never going to be an easy or particularly pleasant watch, nor was it intended to be, and it makes that clear from the get-go. The viewer sees in agonising detail Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf) go from being overjoyed at the birth of their first child, to unfathomable pain as her life slowly drains away. It is a truly tragic and powerful scene that will leave you as heartbroken as it intended to do. This is one of the films key successes, it understands that this is not supposed to be an enjoyable film and doesn’t try to lighten the mood throughout.

Character Development Misses the Mark

However, having a film that is as bleak and sad to watch as this means it must rely on a strong plot and strong characters to keep the viewer interested. Unfortunately, this film struggles to do that.

It feels at times as though the viewer is sitting in on a family tragedy, having little backstory or knowledge of the people in the situation. We get some brief altercations between Martha and her relatives, who it is clear there is some tension among. But we never really get to know Martha as a person and so can’t nothing to compare who she is post-tragedy to who she was prior to it. This takes away from the impact of what happened as we don’t really know to what extent this changed her personality. Was the arguing brought about because of it, or has she always been distant from her relatives? How strong was her relationship with Sean before the death? These are questions that are not really answered and almost danced around by the story.

No Justice for Fathers

Another frustration is the way Martha’s partner Sean is handled. Following the death, we see both partners are clearly harmed by what happened. While many families may come together in times of crisis, this essentially destroys Martha and Sean’s relationship. Sean becomes aggressive and toxic towards Martha as she refuses to attempt to move on with her life. His frustration boils over in a very uncomfortable scene in which many viewers may consider his actions verging on rape. This makes him a very unlikeable character in a movie that doesn’t really need a villain. This was an opportunity to show how such an event could impact the father as well as the mother. I understand the movie was looking to focus on Martha but turning Sean into the character he became and in particular the way his story ends, seemed unfair to the story.

Long Run Time

With a run time of over two hours, it feels at times as though some of the content is unnecessary. It is a painful watch and by dragging it out for over two hours felt a little overboard. Had it been more concise in getting its messages and points across it may have been better viewing and more impactful.

Good Acting Performances

In terms of acting, there were a few excellent performances in this film. Its key success was showing just how broken Martha was following the tragedy, and this was helped by an excellent performance from Vanessa Kirby. Similarly, Shia LaBeouf shows his capabilities in his role as Sean and while his character may not have been done justice, he certainly gave a compelling performance.

The Verdict

Overall, “Pieces of a Woman” is a difficult and at times frustrating watch. Understandably the movie has a target audience that is not mine, but even taking that into consideration the movie does fall a little short. Not giving us a proper backstory for the protagonist is a major let down along with its message on how such an event impacts fathers as well as mothers and its slightly long run time, make this one difficult to approve of.

This film will impact people in many different ways and will be a very different viewing for parents or those who have experienced something similar. So, while it may not be enjoyable for all, it will undoubtedly have its niche audience out there.

SCORE – 5/10

Star Performance

Vanessa Kirby is outstanding in this role and undoubtedly is the best performance throughout. Managing some intense and emotional scenes, she generates enough emotion to make her character look truly distraught throughout the film and is definitely one to watch in upcoming roles this year.

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