January 15, 2021
The Oscar-tipped Netflix drama centers on a harrowing and effective scene of loss yet its attempt to deal with the fallout fails to ring true
Shock, no awe: how grim drama Pieces of a Woman fails to portray trauma
Any discussion of Pieces of a Woman, a Netflix drama from the Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó about a couple reeling from the sudden death of their infant daughter during labor, almost inevitably hinges on The Scene. Said scene is a 24-minute single take spanning the entirety of a home birth; a swinging single camera follows Boston couple Sean (Shia Labeouf) and Martha (Vanessa Kirby) from giddy early contractions to agonized labor on the floor, in the bath tub, on the bed, through the last-minute replacement midwife Eva’s (Molly Parker) realization of the baby’s flagging heart rate to the couple’s initial joy as they hold their baby girl and, finally, their horror as her cries fade away. Expertly choreographed and relentlessly focused, anchored by absolute physical commitment from its leads, the scene demands penance from the viewer. I started it splayed on my bed, and left in a crouch.
Related: Pieces of a Woman review – vehement but inauthentic childbirth drama
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