Pieces of a Woman (2020)

KORNEL MUNDRUCZO

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB

//USA, 2020, , .   Screenplay by .   Cinematography by .   Produced by , , .   Music by .   Production Design by .   Costume Design by , Film Editing by Toronto International Film Festival 2020.

The lengthy pre-credits sequence of this touching drama is shot in what appears to be one take, showing going into labour in her home, stressed out when her partner learns that their scheduled midwife isn’t available and is sending a colleague.  The replacement shows up in the form of a terrific , who guides the couple through their childbirth before things take a bad turn; it’s also where this film makes its first wrong move, elaborately creating a sequence that is impressively detailed but somehow not entirely convincing.  Catching up with Kirby months later, we find her coming apart emotionally, her relationship with LaBeouf in crisis thanks to the pressure being put on it by the sorrow of their situation and the heavy hand being wielded by Kirby’s tough Jewish matriarch Ellen Burstyn.  While unable to put together her feelings about moving on with her life, she also has to deal with an impending criminal trial that has made Parker the target of anger in the press.   Hungarian filmmaker Kornel Munczo makes his English-language debut with a film about love and loss that features moments well worth remembering: Burstyn, who hasn’t been this dynamic in years, delivers an exceptional monologue that should be remembered at awards time, and Kirby elicits your sympathy by constantly refusing to ask for it, even in the scenes that could easily turn into screaming awards bait.  What the directors want to do with this story isn’t clear, however, considering all the poorly gauged turns in the plot, including being unnecessarily harsh to LaBeouf’s character and ending the experience with a cheesy Sisterhood-affirmation courtroom speech that only superficially touches the emotional depths of the subject at hand (while legally comes nowhere near addressing them).  It feels more like screenwriter Kata Wéber has painted herself into a corner than found a spiritual resolution for a story that deals with so much incredible pain, but audience members who connect personally with the subject will find much to appreciate here.

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