Thursday, January 7, 2021

Movie with Abe: Pieces of a Woman

Pieces of a Woman
Directed by Kornél Mundruczó
Released January 7, 2021 (Netflix)

Experiencing a loss can lead to truly lasting and irreversible effects. There’s the very literal absence of the person or thing that is no longer present, and a melancholy about what could have been if that was not the case. No two people go through a loss in the exact same way, even if they are now both missing the same thing. Getting back to a point of stability may take a tremendous amount of time, and those who can’t see the world through one person’s eyes may have difficulty accepting that the process may be lengthy and possibly never even fully complete.

Martha (Vanessa Kirby) prepares for a home birth with her partner Sean (Shia LaBeouf), and they are forced to use a new midwife, Eva (Molly Parker), when their original choice is not available. Troubling indicators after the baby is born lead to the devastating death of the child and Eva’s arrest on multiple counts of negligence. Martha struggles to exist in the aftermath, facing constant judgment and hushed conversations around her, both from those she knows, like her mother, Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn) and those who somehow think they comprehend her situation and mindset.

This can be a very grueling film to watch, one that spares little in its depiction of the birthing process and its traumatic aftermath. Martha is a character who exudes positive energy early on but is also clearly involved in a relationship that is toxic at best. There is a friction between Sean and Elizabeth that initially seems lighthearted and almost comical, and though they both want to support Martha, their approaches are disparate and clashing. Sean in particular is unwilling to consider Martha’s feelings separately from his own, unable to acknowledge that the emptiness she has could be different or deeper than his own.

Kirby, a standout player from the first two seasons of “The Crown,” delivers an exceptional performance charged with emotion, presenting Martha as someone who does not like being vulnerable but also isn’t always able to stand up for herself in the face of oppressive or demeaning elements. Burstyn is memorable and impactful in her limited scenes, adding layers to the mother who doesn’t always agree with her strong-willed daughter. The strength of LaBeouf’s turn shouldn’t be judged by the lawsuits and negative press he is currently facing, but it’s not easy to separate those allegations from the similarities to the character he plays perhaps all too well. This film is, at times, both poignant and deeply upsetting, seemingly unsure of its ultimate direction but committed to sitting with discomfort and grief and grappling with unresolved questions about imagined possibilities.


1 comment:

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