Saturday, March 13, 2021

Pieces of a Woman

Movie Name:
Pieces of a Woman
Year of Release: 2020
Director: Kornel Mundruczo
Starring: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn, Molly Parker, Sarah Snook, Iliza Schlesinger, Benny Safdie, Tyrone Benskin, Steven McCarthy
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4
View Trailer

Synopsis and Review:
The creative team comprised of director Kornel Mundruczo and writer Kata Weber, have followed their previous directorial effort, "Jupiter's Moon" with "Pieces of a Woman", which made its premiere at the Venice Film Festival of 2020 and got subsequently purchased for distribution by Netflix. The film follows the story of Martha, a young woman currently pregnant, who lives with her partner Sean. Sean and Martha's mother, Elizabeth, do not get along, but as the baby's birth looms they're getting the house ready and making sure they have a car that fits their growing family. Martha has decided to have the baby at home, and has been preparing for the birthing process with her midwife Barbara. When Martha starts with contractions and the birthing process begins, Barbara is unable to be there due to a previous birthing that she's already shepherding. Eva is sent in her place, and she quickly reassures Martha and Sean of her knowledge and what lies ahead. Things however take a dark turn, as the baby dies shortly after being born, leaving Martha numb and devastated, the same going for the rest of the family, including Sean, Elizabeth and Martha's sister, Anita. As Martha tries to make way of resuming her life, her mom is intent on bringing the midwife to justice, whereas Sean feels disconnected of his own life, and lapses back to drug usage.
"Pieces of a Woman" tries to document the painful aftermath of a traumatic situation, which is of course the death of a baby. The creative team's approach to showcasing the aftermath of this horrific event, focuses on capturing the rawness of feelings and interactions between characters. However all these interactions and events, feel strangely artificial and orchestrated, lacking some of the veracity one can find in a John Cassavetes film for instance. When Lars Von Trier or even Catherine Breillat, depicted un-simulated sex acts in their films, it felt very much part of the narrative they were saying, an extension of what their characters were doing. In the case of "Pieces of Woman", whatever is captured in the more intimate scenes between Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf, simply doesn't work, the same going with Sarah Snook's and Shia LaBeouf's interactions. These scenes generally feel more gratuitous than genuine, or for that matter, like they fail to add purpose to what is occurring onscreen. While there's something interesting to Vanessa Kirby's perspective of the main character, namely some aloofness and even coldness during most of the feature, one can't help but think of what someone such as Rooney Mara would've done with this role. Shia LaBeouf's roles by now, seem to blend into each other, without much distinction between them. He's on a streak of playing working individuals, with some personal baggage, which translates into issues with alcohol and drugs, and a general impossibility to relate to others. The film's emotional center and core actually belongs to Ellen Burstyn: she breathes life into that character, creating a mother who carries a heavy burden of history within her, someone who simply wants the best for her children. Molly Parker and Iliza Schlesinger have somewhat smallish roles, but Parker in particular, always manages to create a strong impact, bringing humanity and dignity to every character she portrays. While not being a bad film, it's nonetheless one that tries very hard to be many things. Atom Egoyan in "The Sweet Hereafter" captured pain in an almost lyrical manner, whereas this approach, with its apparent rawness, feels forced and again, lacking authenticity. It's worth watching for Ellen Burstyn's powerful performance.