Pieces of a Woman Movie Review
Pieces of a Woman is the perfect film for people who like to watch movies about babies dying, according to my wife. Which begs the question, why do people make movies like this, utterly depressing and not at all pleasing to watch?
The answer: some people just want to watch the world burn. And others want to depict it burning on camera.
As relentlessly oppressive as Pieces of a Woman is, this searing drama from Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó is a showcase of superb performances. Mundruczó and writer/collaborator Kata Wéber may just want to watch the world burn, but they’ve made a tremendously powerful film nonetheless, even if it falls apart in the end.
Both Vanessa Kirby (Mission: Impossible - Fallout) and Shia LaBeouf are outstanding. Breathtaking. Stunning. People with better vocabularies than me could come up with more distinctive adjectives, but there’s no denying this pair deliver two of the best performances of the year. What’s most fascinating is how the actors approach the materially differently, yet bring their characters to life in equally devastating fashion.
And “devastating” is an apt word. As the father of a two-year-old and one half of a healthy marriage, Pieces of a Woman is the kind of movie that I can’t avoid projecting onto my own family. Horrible tragedy aside, what would such a thing do to my marriage? To me? It’s hard to fathom, even impossible to, and yet it’s very easy to understand how two people could splinter and spiral out of control as depicted here.
Sadly, the other devastating aspect of the movie is how Mundruczó and Wéber fail to bring the movie home. While stories like this are often more about the journey than the destination, the decision to end this incredibly nuanced and emotional film in a courtroom, and worse, with a grand speech that probably would not happen in real life, was not a good one. The scene is so unrealistic and, worse, so unlike the rest of the movie, that it really keeps Pieces of a Woman from being one of the great movies of 2020. The real shame is that the filmmakers could have taken a very similar path while accomplishing so much more.
Much of Pieces of a Woman is terrific, a powerful exploration of grief, anger, and shock. Featuring two of the best performances of the year, it is a movie that deserves to be seen--if you can handle the hefty material--even if the pieces work better than the whole.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.