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.
It was a rough year but we had some great films that came out to help get us through the madness! So without further ado, here are my Top 10 films of 2020 with some honourable mentions of course.
1. Promising Young Woman dir. Emerald Fennell
“This film is unlike anything I’ve seen and it is because of how the story is structured. It does slow down towards the middle of the film, only to pick back up and deliver one of the most controversial endings of the year. Some will agree with the ending and others will most definitely be infuriated. However, the ending of the film is the perfect reflection of how women are treated and what men deserve.”
“The film felt like the embodiment of the character of Emma Woodhouse, like her entire soul was spread into the corners of the frame and we could feel her presence, even if she wasn’t on screen. De Wilde captured Ms. Woodhouse’s entire being and made sure we understood who she was.Emma had the perfect balance of tension between possible suitors and a whirlwind of situations that caused Emma to spin out of control.”
“The wonderful thing about Spike Lee, is that he makes you fall in love with his characters in the first act of the film. In the second act, he shows you their pain, flaws and grievances. Then in the third act, he exposes his characters, like an open wound, to the world that has so deeply wronged them, time and time again. It is a film, like every other Spike Lee film, that unloads accurate information about Black history. Lee has never shied away from telling it like it is and has always managed to show every perspective on racial ideologies.”
“Not only did Whannell write a fantastic story, he also created a chilling, isolated atmosphere that affected his protagonist, as well as the audience. You feel everything with Cecelia because of the framing and camera movements, it feels as if you’re stuck with her on this journey. The sound design is also something that flowed nicely throughout the film and was utilized at the right moments, for dramatic effect.”
5. Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn dir. Cathy Yan
“I loved everything about this, especially the fact that it focused on the many ways women can be mistreated by men. It definitely has a different girl power energy and maybe it’s because I’m older but this badass, anarchist, violent, R rated energy just gives off a higher level of empowerment. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced something like that. Seeing all those women on screen, harnessing their powers and setting aside their differences in order to take a villain out.”
“Soul is emotional and incredibly moving because it has conversations about the choices people make in their lives. What makes us fully formed people? Why do we have the need to find a purpose in life and if we don’t we consider ourselves failures? These are internal struggles that we have all faced, time and time again.”
“It has a nice mixture of comedic moments and realistic discussions about life, which I really appreciated. The perception of loneliness, is always something that should be explored and how life can sometimes seem meaningless, if you do not have someone to share it with. That is why placing the central event, as a wedding day, in this film was extremely beneficial because of the weight it holds on everyone’s lives. It is very well crafted because they address so many different ideas of love and relationships.”
“The direction had this dual sense of atmosphere. Even though it takes place in a recording studio, it did not feel stuffy and static, like other plays that have been adapted for the screen. Wolfe created two separate rooms that had separate energy from each other. What was most impressive was how Wolfe captured his actors.It felt like we were on stage with these actors, the close ups and tight knit camerawork that was used was extremely effective.”
“Regina King’s direction was subtle and effective. She took the stage play and made it her own. It felt effortless as everything flowed from scene to scene, even light conversations to deeper ones. Even though the film takes place in one room for majority of the runtime, it’s the dialogue that holds you and the way King focused on her actors. She brought out such fantastic performances and the way she moved them through each scene was strong.”
“The film is not a representation of this current era that we are living in. Instead it represents the long fight against systemic racism and how this level of injustice has not been handled properly. A Sorkin script is never easy to get through, many actors have said that it is harder than it seems. It is fast paced and the soundtrack also brought everything together, it wasn’t overused and it came in at the right moments.”
One night, in 1960s Miami, four men come together from different professional backgrounds to discuss important social issues. Those men were Malcolm X (Kinglsey Ben-Adir), Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.). The majority of the film takes place in a motel room and the dialogue exchanged was gripping because of the incredible chemistry from the cast. The film is directed by Regina King and it is based on the stage play One Night in Miami written by Kemp Powers.
The structure of this film worked really well because it showed each character separately, living their lives and then they come together in Miami. That one night, the night Cassius Clay became the champ and beat Sonny Liston was a special night. Not only because Clay won, or Malcolm X joined him in front of the press, but the aftermath of that night and what it gave the world. It is a very simple film but the screenplay by Powers dives into many conversations and holds your attention the whole way through. The chemistry between the four of them was incredible and their performances were great.
The conversations had between Sam Cooke and Malcolm X were interesting to listen to because they both approached Black power in a different way. Cooke wanted to learn the system and understand how to turn it inside out from the inside track, especially being in the music industry. Whereas Malcolm X wanted their community to unify and stand against the oppressor. Both ideals are right in their own way and it definitely created tension between the two of them. There were such strong moments from all four characters but Eli Goree stole the spotlight with his portrayal of Cassius Clay. We all know that Clay was cocky and outspoken but old footage doesn’t do him justice, so Goree’s performance was great to watch.
Regina King’s direction was subtle and effective. She took the stage play and made it her own. It felt effortless as everything flowed from scene to scene, even light conversations to deeper ones. Even though the film takes place in one room for majority of the runtime, it’s the dialogue that holds you and the way King focused on her actors. She brought out such fantastic performances and the way she moved them through each scene was strong. Plays that are adapted for the screen can sometimes be tedious and very static in their atmosphere but King explores every aspect of this one night.
One Night in Miami is a very strong directorial debut for Regina King. It highlights the Black experience and the history of these four important figures. The conversations shared between them are always necessary, even if they’re hard to discuss. Hearing them discuss their own experiences and what they wish for the future was very important. If you enjoy films with heavy dialogue and intellectual conversations about society then this is something that you will enjoy.
Soul is the perfect film to end the year with. It is an animated film that reinstates the meaning of life and the purpose we serve in the world. It is beautifully animated because Pixar has perfected their rendering technology to make everything lifelike. The story is well-written and is incredibly heartfelt. Everyone has dreams or goals they want to accomplish at a certain time in their life. While trying to achieve those goals, they forget to live their lives.
This movie is one of the most important pieces to come out this year. I think everyone has lost themselves a bit during this pandemic. For the majority of this year people have reevaluated their lives and how they live. While watching Soul you will gain a new appreciation for life because director, Pete Docter shows us how wonderful the small things in life are through a character named, 22 (Tina Fey). We often question what our purpose in life is and as we try to navigate our way through this journey, we lose sight of the small things that can make us happy.
Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a music teacher at his local school and he has one student in his class that has soul when she plays the trombone. She loves playing and Joe can tell that it comes from such a special place. He knows that she was meant to play that instrument, much like his connection to playing piano. Joe is a wonderful music teacher because he believes in the connectivity and the artistic nature of music. There’s a feeling one has when connecting to art, it’s a special feeling and Docter presents it so well. The score from Reznor and Ross elevated the animation and will bring you into the atmosphere Docter created. It is a film that you will lose yourself in because of how stunning it is.
Soul is emotional and incredibly moving because it has conversations about the choices people make in their lives. What makes us fully formed people? Why do we have the need to find a purpose in life and if we don’t we consider ourselves failures? These are internal struggles that we have all faced, time and time again. There is one scene in a barbershop that I absolutely loved because of the conversation about career paths and life struggles. Life doesn’t always deal the best cards and everyone has to find a path that suits their situation, even if you stray away from your dreams.
The meaning of life isn’t something that can be explained, or even found, there is no answer to the age old question. Humans are placed on Earth to live, to simply exist, while experiencing the wonders life has to offer. Soul will make you appreciate all the memories you have, whether you remember your first bite of pizza ever, the first time waves crashed over your feet at the beach, or the first time you experienced a sunset, those small moments made an impact. That is why life is worth living. It’s not slaving away at your job, it’s not struggling to find your purpose, it’s simply living and that’s a beautiful sentiment.
This is the film of the year. This is a film that takes all of the typical “take a girl home” tropes and flips it on its head. It is bold, daring and incredibly dark but in all the right ways. Emerald Fennell’s screenplay and direction is impeccable. She knew the story she wanted to tell and how to execute it to perfection. Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) has been seeking revenge for an incident that happened back in University and she is ruthless. Cassie has easily become one of my favourite characters of all time because of the way she carried herself in the film.
Promising Young Woman shows the treatment of women and the consequences that should come with it. We all figure that it is the year 2020 and well after the #MeToo movement, men would at least try to change their ways. But we continue to be disappointed, time and time again. This film is unlike anything I’ve seen and it is because of how the story is structured. It does slow down towards the middle of the film, only to pick back up and deliver one of the most controversial endings of the year. Some will agree with the ending and others will most definitely be infuriated. However, the ending of the film is the perfect reflection of how women are treated and what men deserve.
The story is just so well-written and the casting was perfect. We have never seen Carey Mulligan like this and that is why her name (and the film itself) deserves to be in the Oscar season mix. Mulligan gave such a thrilling, complex performance, she completely owned the role and understood Cassie so well. The supporting cast consisting of Bo Burnam, Alison Brie, Laverne Cox, Molly Shannon, Jennifer Coolidge and Connie Britton really brought so much to the table to make this film work. Everything about this film was perfect in my eyes and it will definitely spark a conversation, which is the most important thing.
There are moments in this film that have stayed with me long after I’ve watched it. These key emotional moments are placed perfectly to showcase Cassie’s talents and the underlying misogyny that is evident in society. The soundtrack that accompanies the film reflects Cassie’s journey and the songs are chosen extremely well. The score also juxtaposes what happens in certain scenes, which creates a sense of anticipation when watching Cassie have certain interactions with others. There is an undercurrent of tension prevalent throughout the whole film and it’s because every single aspect of this film works so well together.
Promising Young Woman is the film of the year. Carey Mulligan gives the performance of her career and should be highly praised for her work. The character of Cassie Thomas essentially symbolizes all women who have been treated poorly or have been involved in something much bigger. It felt like a gigantic middle finger to men everywhere and it is a film that will leave its mark on you. Emerald Fennell’s film is crafted incredibly well to give everyone a sense of empowerment while serving justice to all.