‘Pieces of A Woman’ is gripping and captivating… for its first half hour


One…two…three. PUSH! Okay, you’re doing great. The baby is crowning. I need you to do one last push for me, okay? Just one more. Alright, are you ready? Here we go. One…two…three. PUSH… she’s out! She’s beautiful. You mus-w-wait. She’s turning blue. Call an ambulance.

From what I’ve described so far, you can probably take a pretty solid guess as to the plot of “Pieces of a Woman.” The film follows Martha Weiss (Vanessa Kirby) after a tragic home birth that strains her relationships with both her partner and her family. Based off of the filmmakers, Kata Wéber and Kornél Mundruczó, and their experience with having children, the film’s concept is definitely a heartbreaking and thought-provoking one.

To be completely frank, this movie is not great. The reason? Intensity.

To start from the beginning: The film starts off in fantastic fashion. We are introduced to Sean Carson (Shia LaBeouf), a seemingly loving and supporting partner to his wife, Martha Weiss. Martha is more refined, but compliments Sean’s gruffness. Martha goes into labor while in her apartment with Sean. After they call their doula, who is unavailable, they receive a replacement doula named Eva.

I can confidently say that this masterpiece of a scene will be studied in film classes for generations. If not attuned to the cinematography, one might miss the way that the entire first scene is shot in one take. From the beginning of labor to the birth of the child, the entire scene is shot seamlessly and masterfully.

But after that, the film sort of… dies. Especially after coming from such a high intensity moment, the rest of the film pales in comparison. It becomes a mess of weird, unspoken tension and family conflict that is not as moving as it is confusing and bland. I often say that unspoken acting is some of the best. But when the majority of the conflict in the entire two hour and eight minute run time is completely unspoken, it gets to be a little tiring. It is clear that the concept for the film is heartbreaking. However, in execution, it makes for a very slow, boring film.

The one saving grace of this film is Vanessa Kirby. She truly owns her character and it is blatantly apparent. Her ability to give birth on camera to then become the brooding, hate-filled Martha that we see later in the film is astonishing. In my opinion, she should have taken home the Oscar for Best Actress this year for her performance instead of Frances McDormand (FYI: I don’t have a problem with McDormand, I have a problem with Nomadland).

I’ll also say that I didn’t mind Shia Labeouf. Kirby definitely outshined him, but he did give a solid performance as Sean. The problem I have with him, however, is that his character is not compelling. He is a doting, loving husband until he turns into a sleazy dirtbag. The transition between the two is flimsy at best and nonexistent at worst. I understand that the events that take place in the film are life-altering, but the way in which we see Labeouf’s character transform into what he becomes is so unconvincing. This is more because of poor writing rather than Labeouf’s acting, but nevertheless it is a detriment to the film.

If you’re a hardcore fan of Vanessa Kirby, I’d consider watching this movie. It definitely shows off her acting chops. But other than that, “Pieces of a Woman” is a pretty hard skip. If anything, watch the first part for the technical aspects and then choose something more worth your time.

Grade: B-