As the end of the year approaches, the slate of awards season contenders has begun to take shape, even with the Oscar window extended beyond the beginning of 2021. One late-coming player would be Vanessa Kirby, who won the Best Actress prize at this year’s Venice Film Festival, and now hopes to maintain that momentum for further awards gold.
Pieces of a Woman is the film that’s earned her across-the-board plaudits in recent months, and today brings a first trailer prior to its release on Netflix. In the first English-language feature from Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó, she gives her actorly muscles a workout as a woman contending with a grief beyond imagining for most people, every mother’s worst nightmare.
She and Shia LaBeouf play expectant parents torn apart by the death of their infant child, a trauma that sends her retreating into denial while he embraces a pain he might not survive. In their attempt to make sense of this tragedy, they move to file charges of criminal negligence against the midwife (Molly Parker) who facilitated their home birth, though the suit might be more motivated by the wishes of her overbearing mother (Ellen Burstyn).
Notices have been generally positive, with special praise reserved for Kirby’s no-holding-back performance and Burstyn’s supporting turn of forceful manipulation. In her review from this year’s TIFF, LWLies own Hannah Woodhead wrote positively of the film’s deep wellspring of empathy for parents harboring unspeakable hurt: “For those who have undergone such a traumatic experience, it’s essential that they are given the support they need, and something a simple as acknowledging their experience can be vital.”
Like Rabbit Hole before it, this portrait of mourning will undoubtedly fall into the tradition of poignant films too emotionally excruciating to watch more than once. Parents in particular, keep your handkerchiefs close by while streaming.
Pieces of a Woman comes to select theaters in the US on 30 December, then to Netflix on 7 January.
Published 17 Nov 2020
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