THE EMPTY NEST
It could be affirmed that Pieces of a Woman is on the way to becoming instantly (at least for a period of time) the film referring to the case of sudden death of a newborn in a natural home birth, I am unaware of the existence today of other films that broach this very theme.
The initial twenty minutes impose an undisputed mark on the uneven work of the Hungarian Mundruczó. It is impossible not to be moved, feel tense and even uneasy after the impact generated by those first scenes so well staged that they mostly cover the moment of conception after the objective of wanting to show the relationship that Martha (Vanessa Kirby) maintains with Sean (Shia LaBeaouf), her partner, and with Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn), her mother. In those few minutes it is immediately understood that Sean is not – so to speak – in the same social stratum to which Martha belongs; he works in a port construction, whereas she is an executive, and her mother, a rich woman who shows her power (mainly over Sean) with the gift of a car. That imbalance, added to the conflict that Martha must go through mainly, are the bases on which the film will be developed, a kind of drama that delves into the deconstruction of a couple after the traumatic event of losing their first child and that culminates with a tiresome judicial claim for malpractice against the midwife played by Molly Parker.
Pieces of a Woman is a film which revolves around Vanessa Kirby and the strength of her character, her integrity and physical, social and work vulnerability. The event that left marks on her is evidenced by the presence of fluid on her breasts, her lack of sexual appetite, her discomfort and rejection of her partner. Issues that will lead her character and Sean’s to become estranged, to break their bond and embark on affairs stripped of the spark that used to be between them, the one that allowed them to laugh even at a pun about a vegetable.
Mundruczó´s endeavor in this film is somewhat disappointing. His films are full of endless sequence shots, the kind that usually tire us, that make no sense in relation to cinematographic language and are only present who knows why. As in Jupiter’s Moon, this use is added to that of the easy allegory (previously represented by a savior, the chosen one and all imaginable religious references) with the use of water and its connotations (for example, in relation to the liquid container of a creature in the mother’s womb). Ludicrous hyperboles like this one abound in the film.
Pieces of a Woman ends up being one of those films that invests in a valuable premise on a sensitive topic and inexplicably restricts itself to the ease of the main character’s plea in a trial so as to immediately account for what happens; pamphlet cry (the same one from Michael Apted in The Accused or the embarrassing twist and end of the prosecution that Martin Brest imposes in his Scent of a Woman, to name just a couple) that could well be covered in much more interesting ways.
(Canada, Hungary, United States, 2020)
Direction: Kornél Mundruczó. Script: Kata Wéber. Cast: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeaouf, Molly Parker, Ellen Burstyn, Sarah Snook, Benny Safdie. Production: Ashley Levinson, Aaron Ryder, Kevin Turen. Length: 126 minutes.