By Lynn Venhaus
A deeply personal story of loss, “Pieces of a Woman” is a young mother’s tough year-long journey of grief. It’s a hard watch, nevertheless marked by remarkable performances.
When a Boston couple on the verge of parenthood endures the sudden loss of an infant, we are in for an unraveling of both of their lives, which will resonate with anyone who has faced a trauma.
Martha (Vanessa Kirby) begins a heartrending year-long odyssey of mourning that fractures relationships with loved ones as she learns to live alongside her loss.
Hungarian partners Kata Weber wrote the screenplay while Kornel Mondruczo directed, based on their similar experience, and they bring out the gut-wrenching impact of such an unimaginable tragedy.
The movie begins with an intense 23-minute home birth scene that goes tragically awry. The midwife (Molly Parker) is vilified and sued. The young couple’s rough patch is exacerbated by her domineering mother (Ellen Burstyn).
Stage actress Vanessa Kirby, who played Princess Margaret in “The Crown,” announces that she is an actress to watch. While her character Martha’s harsh odyssey is a wobbly one, you don’t doubt her commitment, and she’s heartbreaking.
Shia LaBeouf is fine as Sean, the supportive husband whose help is shunned by his shattered wife. The supporting cast includes comedian Iliza Shlesinger as Martha’s sister Anita, Benny Safdie as her husband and Sarah Snook as the family attorney.
This intimate portrait may lack some cohesiveness but is a painful foray into the healing process and a bruising human experience.
“Pieces of a Woman” is a drama directed by Kornel Mondruczo starring Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBoeuf and Ellen Burstyn. Rated R for language, sexual content, graphic nudity and brief drug use, the movie runtime is 2 hours, 5 minutes. Lynn’s Grade: B. In theaters and on Netflix Jan. 7.
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.