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TIFF 2020: “Pieces of a Woman”


© Pieces Film, Inc.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As a parent, I can’t imagine holding a lifeless body of a baby and not knowing how to react to it. Heartbreak, tears, confusion, it’s almost like you are left in a huge island. The room that has been prepared, the future that has all already been planned and then, when the most beautiful day arrives, the only thing you receive is silence.

Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf) are getting ready for the birth of their first child. The midwife, Eva (Molly Parker), has already arrived. The soon-to-be mom is preparing for delivery.  After a long struggle, the baby finally sees daylight but only to be held briefly in her mother’s hand before she dies. Devastated, the couple navigate through their greatest loss, as they try to bring the pieces of their heart together. One suffers quietly, another one openly. It is the story of a woman that loses her most important part, leaving no chances for it to be patched.

The magnificent opening scene that lasts about thirty minutes is a showcase of masterpiece on a scale you have not seen before. The camera follows Martha, as she, with every single muscle, is doing her best to help the baby to come out. The lines are something you should pay close attention to. Eva uses all her skills for the home-birth but something does not seem right. As Martha follows the woman’s instruction, the most difficult moment comes when 911 is needed to be dialed.

When the tragedy occurs, Sean and Martha are trying to understand what went wrong. Why the baby died and whether the death of their child was preventable or not.  An exquisite and superbly detailed screenplay from Kata Wéber gives enough material to Vanessa Kirby to juggle with this in any way she wants. Her portrayal of Martha is the definition of masterpiece. She shows what does it mean to be a woman in pain, a woman in mourning. A woman who loses her pieces of a giant puzzle preventing it from being solved.

Shia LeBeouf as Sean, a rough construction worker with a big heart is remarkable. His Sean also bears the pain. He wants to remain strong but he cannot bause the image of his child is not something he can erase easily. Ellen Burstyn as Martha’s mother is all that “Pieces of a Woman” needed to bring it up to a whole new level. But it is a Vanessa Kirby show and the showcase of her talent that, from this moment on, has cemented her place in the history of cinema. Her heart-racing performance is not something you will forget any time soon.

That said, Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó brushes out, shapes it, and delivers the most moving and heart-wrenching film as a virtuoso. His ability to sense the woman’s story, the grief and internal pain is absolutely stunning. As for the storyline, it is not something that can be delivered in ewords. Because all that you will feel throughout is an emptiness and a desire to hug your loved ones. Especially if you have children. Because this film reminds us once again the value of a child, its importance in our life, and what does it mean when the moments of joy we had is no longer with us.

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