In Pieces of a Woman, the drama can be sensed before the tragedy happens. There are palpable communication deficiencies between husband and wife, Sean and Martha (played by Shia LaBeouf and Vanessa Kirby). When Sean says, “Penny for your thoughts,” that implies that there is tension building because they are not on the same page. Director Kornel Mundruczo utilizes many still-shots of the characters’ facial expressions to capture their inner emotions before and after the tragedy, which sets Pieces of a Woman in motion. The dramatic elements cause the film to be enticing. And the tragedy stirs the pot for more irreconcilable differences.
Sean and Martha are a couple that live in Boston. They are starting their life together as they are about to have their first baby. Martha’s mother, Elizabeth (played by Ellen Burstyn), tries to help them financially, but questions the couple’s judgement. They decide to go the route of having a midwife for a home birth, and the midwife is Eva (played by Molly Parker). The challenging and painful process begins, but soon ends in tragedy, as the baby does not survive. This puts all the characters in a place of confusion and anger as they figure out how to navigate their lives. They are filled with emotions from the devastating tragedy and are burdened by the question of whether or not Eva is at fault. This causes Sean and Martha’s relationship to struggle, as they are unable to see eye-to-eye. Martha also struggles with her mother, as they are in the process of figuring out the legal issues with Eva and how to navigate the loss of their baby.
Pieces of a Woman displays a heavy theme of emotions that are enthralling but can also be hard to watch. As Sean and Martha try to figure out how to move forward after this loss, they begin to have resentment and constant disagreements. The emotions portrayed in the film caused me anxiety as I wondered what the outcome would be. However, I found myself more deeply connected to Marth because her family is more involved, specifically her mother. Martha’s mother pressures her to take Eva to court and tries to convince her that Sean is a dead-beat based on his past. I found that the film did not have much light, until the end when Martha finds herself.
If there were a way to define the couple’s conflicts, I would say the tragedy led to more discontent with one another. The conversations between Martha and Sean almost always fall into silence, which leaves them in solitude. Then, the film most often focuses on how Martha is feeling and thinking. She is devastated but cannot figure out what can make her life right and help her to progress after her terrible experience. Does taking Eva down in court make her happy? Does burning bridges with Sean make her issues different? Does her mother’s influence on her change the way she thinks? The film will leave you with many questions about where the light can be found, and that is why the harshness of Pieces of a Woman had me deep in thought. Three stars.