Pieces of a Woman

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Pieces of a Woman
Pieces of a Woman.jpeg
Official release poster
Directed byKornél Mundruczó
Produced by
Written byKata Wéber
Starring
Music byHoward Shore
CinematographyBenjamin Loeb
Edited byDávid Jancsó
Production
companies
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • September 4, 2020 (2020-09-04) (Venice)
  • December 30, 2020 (2020-12-30) (United States)
Running time
128 minutes[1]
Country
  • Canada
  • United States
LanguageEnglish

Pieces of a Woman is a 2020 drama film directed by Kornél Mundruczó, from a screenplay by Kata Wéber. It stars Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Molly Parker, Sarah Snook, Iliza Shlesinger, Benny Safdie, Jimmie Fails and Ellen Burstyn. Martin Scorsese serves as one of the executive producers.[2] An American-Canadian co-production, the film is directly related to Mundruczó and Wéber's 2018 stageplay of the same name, performed by the artistic ensemble of TR Warszawa.[3]

The film had its world premiere on September 4, 2020 at the 77th Venice International Film Festival, where Kirby won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress.[4] It was released in select theaters on December 30, 2020, before beginning to digitally stream on Netflix on January 7, 2021. The film received generally positive reviews, with Kirby and Burstyn's performances receiving critically acclaim.

Plot[edit]

Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf) are expecting their first child. Martha goes into labour and Sean calls their midwife, Barbara; she is unavailable and sends another midwife, Eva, in her place. Martha struggles with nausea and pain during contractions and, when she reaches ten centimetres, Eva realises the baby's heart rate has dropped dangerously low. Sean asks Eva if they are safe to continue and Eva says yes. Martha soon gives birth to a baby girl. Eva then notices the baby is turning blue and attempts to revive her, but she goes into cardiac arrest and dies.

The following month, Martha and Sean attend an appointment with a coroner; Sean is eager to find out what went wrong, while Martha is reluctant. They learn the cause of death has not yet been established but are told they were able to determine that the baby was in a low-oxygen environment and have started proceedings against Eva. Sean leaves, overcome with emotion, while Martha remains and decides that she wants to donate the baby's body to science.

Martha's relationship with Sean continues to struggle, as well as with her overbearing mother Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn) who wants to bury the baby and have a funeral. Both Martha and Sean remain deeply depressed. Sean later starts to have an affair with Martha's cousin, Suzanne, and begins using cocaine after being sober for almost seven years. Suzanne, who also is the attorney prosecuting Eva, informs him that a potential lawsuit against Eva could be very lucrative.

Elizabeth blames Martha for the baby's death because she decided to have a home birth, and also tells her she has to attend Eva's trial. Elizabeth then tells Sean she never liked him. She offers him money to leave and never return. Martha drops Sean off at the airport and he leaves for Seattle.

Months later, Martha testifies at Eva's trial. Afterwards, the judge allows her to address the court, in which she states that Eva is not at fault for the death and she does not blame her. Back home, she discovers that apple seeds she started in her refrigerator have started to sprout. A month later Martha scatters her daughter's ashes into the river.

Years later, a little girl climbs an apple tree. Martha helps her down and the two go inside together.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

In October 2019, it was announced Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf had joined the cast of the film, with Kornél Mundruczó directing from a screenplay by his partner Kata Wéber. The film is based on the 2018 play of the same name, also by Wéber and Mundruczó, which in turn was based on their own experience losing a child to an unsuccessful pregnancy,[5] as well as taking elements from the trial of Hungarian midwife Ágnes Geréb.[6] Wéber submitted the script to the Hungarian National Film Fund, but did not get support, later an American producer picked it up.[7]

Sam Levinson and Martin Scorsese serve as executive producers on the film.[8] In December 2019, Jimmie Fails, Ellen Burstyn, Molly Parker and Iliza Shlesinger joined the cast of the film.[9][10] In January 2020, Sarah Snook and Benny Safdie joined the cast of the film.[11] Howard Shore composed the film's score.[12]

Filming[edit]

[...] a Netflix viewer has an advantage that someone seeing the film in a theatre doesn't–going back to that birth scene, near the beginning of the film, and rewatching it to compare the testimony with the events. The absence of editing in the childbirth scene is a way to indicate that the event has been presented in its entirety; editing would evoke the suspicion that someone–which is to say, the filmmaker–had edited not merely the images but the event, had left out details that would be relevant to consideration at trial.

Richard Brody, The New Yorker[13]

Principal photography began on December 3, 2019 in Montreal, Canada, and lasted until the end of January 2020.[14]

The film is noted for its 24-minute long take labor scene at the start, dubbed "The Scene" by The Guardian's Adrian Horton.[15] Prior to shooting, Mundruczó sent Kirby materials to inspire her performance of labor, including footage of home births, but wanted the actors to make their own performance choices; there were no marks to hit in the scene, LaBeouf came up with the bad jokes used in the scene himself, and the production team would not show the cast any of the stage performance so as not to overly influence them. Kirby also spent time shadowing midwives on a maternity ward to learn about the experience of childbirth, as she has not given birth herself. Director of photography Benjamin Loeb also physically trained beforehand so that he would have the strength to carry a gimbal-loaded camera for the whole take, though the shoot still negatively impacted his health. He chose the gimbal as he wanted a "floaty" quality to the scene to represent the baby's perspective and felt that using a hand-held camera would make it look too much like a documentary.[6]

The scene was filmed six times over two days, four times on one day and twice the next,[16] with one camera; it was the first scene shot for the film and took up over 30 pages in the script. The choice to use a single take stemmed from the play on which the film is based, which featured a live video feed captured by a camera freely roaming the stage as part of the performance. Loeb said that they "wanted to make sure that the sequence felt like it was presented as a long-winded breath in some ways".[6] The fourth of the six takes was used; though less technically accurate than the takes on the second day, Mundruczó felt it was more alive.[6]

Set within the couple's apartment, the scene was filmed in a real house. It had large archways that allowed Loeb and the cast movement – Kirby was encouraged to make use of the space if she wanted to – except for the bathroom door; Mundruczó initially wanted to pass in and out of the bathroom three times but this was reduced to once to limit the possibility of the shot being ruined. He had chosen the house because it had the same layout as the set design of their play. Before shooting, one practice run was taken; filmed on Loeb's phone, the practice took 38 minutes. Mundruczó did not do another practice, telling Vulture that "if you are very choreographed, then the whole shot can be really cold and calculated, [and] when you don't fix anything, it [can] become a Dogme style of shaking camera."[6] A real baby was used in the scene, with a CGI umbilical cord; the baby was held by its mother just outside the apartment and brought in off-camera for the moment of birth. Mundruczó and Kirby both felt the real baby was integral to the film. Other realism was achieved in the scene: partway through the scene, Sean frantically searches for a phone to call 9-1-1, and in about half of the takes, including the final cut, LaBeouf really struggled to remember where the prop was placed.[6]

Richard Brody of The New Yorker described the scene as a "mere stunt", saying that it is emotionally empty until the last moments and its significance to the rest of the film is an "ultimately pointless symbolic function: as evidence."[13] Vulture's Hillary Kelly instead felt that the scene "is a technical trick, but an emotional lever, too, a reminder that labor is a process you cannot wriggle out of once it has begun."[6]

Release[edit]

The film had its world premiere at the 77th Venice International Film Festival in official competition on September 4, 2020.[17] Shortly after, Netflix acquired worldwide distribution rights to the film.[18] It also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in late September 2020.[19]

Pieces of a Woman was released in select theaters on December 30, 2020, before beginning to digitally stream on Netflix on January 7, 2021.[20][21] Upon its digital release, it was the most-watched film over its first three days of release, and finished second overall in its debut weekend.[22]

Reception[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 76% based on 195 reviews, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Pieces of a Woman struggles to maintain momentum after a stunning opening act, but Vanessa Kirby's performance makes the end result a poignant portrait of grief."[23] On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 66 out of 100, based on 40 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[24]

Xan Brooks of The Guardian gave the film 3 out of 5 stars, writing: "Viewed as an acting masterclass, the film is bruisingly impressive in its way. The principal actors raise the roof; each gets to do their big turn for the camera. But it feels a little schooled, a little staged, like a workshop at the Actors' Studio; this impression isn't helped by the over-insistent score, which drops like a lead weight after each full-throated exchange."[25]

Writing for Variety, Peter Debruge said, "But this is ultimately Kirby's movie, as the stage marvel (better known to audiences for her work on The Crown) delivers her most impressive screen performance to date—not just the remarkable commitment of that childbirth scene, but the way she navigates the character's uncertainty for the rest of the movie."[26] The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney said that "those with the stomach for a forcefully acted representation of the gut-wrenching impact and long-range after-effects of sudden infant death will be rewarded with moments both powerful and affecting."[27]

Accolades[edit]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
London Film Critics' Circle Awards February 7, 2021 Best Lead Actress Vanessa Kirby Pending [28]
Best Supporting Actress Ellen Burstyn Pending
Best British/Irish Actress Vanessa Kirby (also for The World to Come) Pending
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards January 11, 2021 Breakthrough Artist Vanessa Kirby Nominated [29]
Best Actress Vanessa Kirby Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Ellen Burstyn Nominated
St. Louis Film Critics Association January 14, 2021 Best Actress Vanessa Kirby Nominated [30]
Best Supporting Actress Ellen Burstyn Nominated
Venice International Film Festival September 12, 2020 International Competition Pieces of a Woman / Kornél Mundruczó Nominated [31]
Volpi Cup for Best Actress Vanessa Kirby Won [32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Pieces of a Woman". Venice Film Festival. Archived from the original on September 13, 2020. Retrieved September 5, 2020.
  2. ^ Ramachandran, Naman (August 18, 2020). "Martin Scorsese Boards Venice, Toronto Title 'Pieces of a Woman' as Executive Producer". Variety. Archived from the original on August 19, 2020. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  3. ^ "Wenecja 2020 - Mundruczo i Weber: sztuka ma leczniczą moc". Polska Agencja Prasowa SA (in Polish). September 9, 2020. Archived from the original on October 14, 2020. Retrieved September 14, 2020.
  4. ^ "Venice Film Festival 2020 Winners: Nomadland Takes Golden Lion, Vanessa Kirby Is Best Actress". IndieWire. Archived from the original on September 12, 2020. Retrieved September 12, 2020.
  5. ^ O'Connor, Roisin (December 31, 2020). "Pieces of a Woman: Netflix drama starring Vanessa Kirby was inspired by real grief". The Independent. Archived from the original on January 10, 2021. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Kelly, Hillary (January 12, 2021). "Pieces of a Woman Hinges on One Heaving, Tremendous Home Birth-Scene". Vulture. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  7. ^ Dávid, Klág (January 10, 2021). "A legborzasztóbb dolog, ami egy anyával történhet". Telex (in Hungarian). Archived from the original on January 10, 2021. Retrieved January 10, 2021.
  8. ^ Galuppo, Mia (October 22, 2019). "Shia LaBeouf to Star in Drama 'Pieces of a Woman' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on December 8, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  9. ^ Sneider, Jeff (December 16, 2019). "Exclusive: Jimmie Fails Joins Shia LaBeouf, Vanessa Kirby in 'Pieces of a Woman'". Collider. Archived from the original on December 17, 2019. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  10. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (December 16, 2019). "Iliza Shlesinger Joins 'Pieces Of A Woman'; Pooch Hall Cast In 'Cherry'; Halle Berry's 'Bruised' Adds Sheila Atim". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on April 8, 2020. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  11. ^ Sneider, Jeff (January 21, 2020). "'Uncut Gems' Director Benny Safdie Joins Shia LaBeouf in 'Pieces of a Woman'". Collider. Archived from the original on January 22, 2020. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
  12. ^ "Howard Shore Scoring Kornél Mundruczó's Pieces of a Woman". FilmMusicReporter. August 19, 2020. Archived from the original on October 14, 2020. Retrieved August 20, 2020.
  13. ^ a b Brody, Richard. ""Pieces of a Woman," Reviewed: A Tale of Grief Gets Lost in the Details". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  14. ^ Goulkas, Katina (November 25, 2019). "There's An Open Casting Call For A Montreal Baby To Be Shia LaBeouf's Child In A New Movie". mtlblog.com. Archived from the original on December 10, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  15. ^ "Shock, no awe: how grim drama Pieces of a Woman fails to portray trauma". The Guardian. January 15, 2021. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  16. ^ The Graham Norton Show – Series 28, Episode 11. The Graham Norton Show, BBC. December 18, 2020.
  17. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (July 28, 2020). "Venice Film Festival 2020: Competition Light On Studios, Strong On Global Arthouse & Women Directors – Full List". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on July 31, 2020. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
  18. ^ Donnelly, Matt (September 12, 2020). "Vanessa Kirby's Venice Winner 'Pieces of a Woman' Sells to Netflix in Worldwide Deal". Variety. Archived from the original on September 12, 2020. Retrieved September 12, 2020.
  19. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (July 30, 2020). "Toronto Sets 2020 Lineup: Werner Herzog, Regina King, Mira Nair, Francois Ozon, Naomi Kawase Titles Join Hybrid Edition". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on July 30, 2020. Retrieved July 30, 2020.
  20. ^ "'Pieces of a Woman' Sets January 2021 Netflix Release Date". What's on Netflix. November 10, 2020. Archived from the original on January 8, 2021. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
  21. ^ "Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf Grapple With Grief in Heart-Wrenching 'Pieces of a Woman' Trailer". November 17, 2020. Archived from the original on January 8, 2021. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  22. ^ Brueggemann, Tom (January 11, 2021). "A Reduced-Price 'Tenet' and PVOD Debut 'Fatale' Stand Out in Home Viewing". IndieWire. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  23. ^ "Pieces of a Woman (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on September 16, 2020. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  24. ^ "Pieces of a Woman Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on October 14, 2020. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  25. ^ Brooks, Xan (September 5, 2020). "Pieces of a Woman review – agonised portrait of a splintering marriage". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on January 8, 2021. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  26. ^ Debruge, Peter (September 5, 2020). "'Pieces of a Woman' Review: Vanessa Kirby Delivers the Performance of Her Career Opposite Shia LaBeouf". Variety. Archived from the original on January 8, 2021. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  27. ^ Rooney, David (September 5, 2020). "'Pieces of a Woman' Review | Venice 2020". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on January 8, 2021. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  28. ^ "'Saint Maud' Leads London Critics' Circle Film Awards Nominations". The Hollywood Resporter. January 12, 2021. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  29. ^ "The 2020 San Diego Film Critics Society (SDFCS) Winners". Next Best Picture. January 11, 2021. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  30. ^ "The 2020 St. Louis Film Critics Association (StLFCA) Nominations". Next Best Picture. January 10, 2021. Archived from the original on January 12, 2021. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  31. ^ "Venezia 77 Competition". labiennale.org. La Biennale di Venezia. July 28, 2020. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
  32. ^ "PIECES OF A WOMAN: Vanessa Kirby wins the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at Venezia 77 - claudia tomassini + associates". claudiatomassini and associates. Archived from the original on January 8, 2021. Retrieved December 21, 2020.

External links[edit]