George Clark’s review published on Letterboxd:
Directed by Kornél Mundruczó and starring Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Benny Safdie and Ellen Burstyn, Pieces of a Woman is an incredibly grounded and intensely personal storyline that follows a young mother's home birth that ends in tragedy.
This is, completely, Vanessa Kirby's film. She's utterly outstanding in the leading role with her performance standing out as one of the best I've seen in quite a while. She draws us inside Martha's mental state to the point it feels like we're sitting inside her mind looking out at the world through her eyes. She conveys the confusion, anger, and desolation of what her character is going through with immense force that, sitting there in the pick black, stunned me to my core and whilst she doesn't emote a wide range of emotions, those that she does are exactly what you'd expect from a woman in her scenario. Alongside her, Shia LaBeouf put in one of the best performances of his career. No matter the public matters that are surrounding him, for which I definitely do not condone, his performance in this was great and truly excelled in the role as, despite many dark moments, he emotes the emotions you'd expect from a father in this situation.
Nevertheless, don't let the incredible performances, many of which drive the film to be as good as it is, sway you. The storyline here is personal, it's tragic and utterly, utterly heart-breaking to watch as the film progresses. In the coming days you'll hear a lot about the long birth scene, how truly harrowing it is and how much of an emotionally gripping start it is. That is all true and it more then merits the praise. The scene, the acting, direction and dialogue throughout all work perfectly at creating a seamlessly heart-breaking experience that, for many, will hit very close to home and all before the title card has even appeared.
However, the problem with the film comes with how predictable it is. Each new revelation that unfolds along the way just doesn't hold as much of an impact as you’d expect as it follows the "by the book" relationship scenarios that you could have predicted before the film started. This doesn't necessarily hinder one’s experience with the movie, it's very well made, but, unfortunately, it does leave you longing for more of an impact beyond the first half an hour. Of course, it would have been nearly impossible for the film to live up to the first half an hour, and that it doesn't fully, but the way it's handled is enough to keep you engaged and whilst you always have a good idea of where the story is going, it does leave an impact once all is concluded.
Pieces of a Woman is a great way for Netflix to start a new year. Powerful monologues from Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, and especially Ellen Burstyn during one sorrowing scene, were enough to keep me fully engaged in the heart-wrenching storyline and while there are places where the film slips, as a whole, Pieces of a Woman comes together tremendously well. It mixes some great direction with a powerful score and leading performance that ultimately left me satisfied with it's arduous, punishing, and gruelling execution that's finished off with an emotionally charged final act that will undoubtedly impact its audience.
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