By: Amanda Guarragi
Pieces of a Woman is a heartbreaking film about the loss of a new life. It also puts into perspective how fragile we are as humans. Director Kornél Mundruczó shows the raw emotion and physical journey of a woman in labor. There are natural ways to give birth and Martha (Vanessa Kirby) wanted a home birth. There are horror stories that you often hear about, in regards to home births, but you never quite see the the aftermath. Mundruczó showed everything. It was uncomfortable, and rather painful to watch but the emotional connection established with Martha is incredibly strong.
The film is more of a character study centered on Martha. We see her quirkiness, energy and light in the beginning of the film. As she struggles to push the newborn out of her (for the first 20 minutes of the film) Kirby gives a very raw performance, one that you would see in acting classes. Mundruczó creates so much tension during the birth, that you feel something bad is about to happen, especially when the midwife begins to panic. There is a small moment of happiness, of complete elation when the birthing process is complete and then, it feels like someone rips your heart out and crushes it with their bare hands.
It has such a strong story and the performances from everyone, especially Ellen Burstyn were extremely strong. The structure and the pacing are the only issues with this film. It started off very strong and then there’s a lull in the middle. Kirby’s performance is internal and you can see the stages of grief as the film goes on. There are other issues that come up in regards to their child that move the story forward but it was extremely slow. Kirby’s performance carries the entire film until the very end, as she has minor confrontations with her mother Ellen Burstyn. The scenes are executed almost like a stage play, meaning the dialogue was heavy and the scenes were static.
The important thing that can be noted from watching Pieces of a Woman is that technology has allowed everything to be safer during the birthing process. There is a conversation between Martha and her mother, that was really eye-opening because they discuss how some mothers from older generations gave birth without the help of doctors in hospitals. They all had a midwife and had home births because there was no other option. The film explores the stages of grief, depression and anxiety from a mother’s perspective after the loss of her child. It is a very heavy film but it is a story that needs to be told in order to help further understand what can go wrong during the birthing process.