Pieces of a Woman
Vanessa Kirby’s performance in Pieces of a Woman is so raw and relatable that it can feel jarring to watch. Considering the trailer and the fact that her labor and delivery scene takes place almost immediately, it is not much of a spoiler to share that the film explores the impact of her loss of a newborn child moments after her birth. The film takes viewers on a harrowing journey through grief and loss that refuses to sugarcoat the small residual cuts that punctuate traumatic loss.
Martha (Kirby) & Sean (Shia LaBeouf) are young and full of chemistry and closeness. They exude mutual sexual attraction and enjoy playful, intimate banter. But the cracks in their relationship also show through even before their loss. Martha’s mother (Ellen Burstyn) buys the expectant couple a new minivan, and the family tension related to the young couples’ inability to afford the car on their own feels as potent as the couples’ erotic charge.
When Sean relapses after years of recovery, soon after losing their baby, the relationship spirals. It seems natural to assume that, despite the couples’ bonds, some other life challenge would have inspired a relapse even if their baby had survived.
Whether she is pushing out a baby, trying to have sex with her husband in the wake of immeasurable loss, or fighting with her mother about whether to sue the midwife who delivered the baby, Martha is a wholehearted and believable character who is flawed, relatable and memorable.
Martha’s turbulent path in the wake of her baby’s death is a lesson in human suffering and inner resources that demonstrates how authentic healing often comes from within and rarely involves a path dictated by the requests, demands or advice of others. The heroine’s visceral pain will resonate with anyone suffering through grief, and will also inspire those who are trying to heal.