Film addresses vulnerable ‘Pieces’ of motherhood


Let me tell a personal story: My older sister was born in 1985. I was born in 1999. My mother had painful C-sections for both of us–she still bears those surgical marks today. Before my birth, she had three miscarriages. 

The loss of a child, let alone a newborn, cannot be expressed in words. No condolences, prayers or rivers of tears will relieve a grieving mother.

Kornél Mundruczó’s “Pieces of a Woman” evokes the struggles of an expecting mother’s ill-fated childbirth, resulting in a strenuous relationship with her husband and growing family tensions. It tells an uncomfortable story wrought in drama yet grounded in reality–no Hollywood polishing or melodrama required. The ending is truly beautiful as love and time conquer loss. 

Martha and Sean eagerly await their first child at any moment. A midwife, Eva, arrives to help the couple give birth at home. The laborious session drags on but Martha births a baby girl, Yvette. However, tragedy strikes after Yvette suddenly dies after birth. Now, as Eva faces a possible five-year sentence, our couple must live on without Yvette and confront their shaky relationship with Martha’s family.

Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf as Martha and Sean grip the heartstrings with realistic, emotionally powerful performances. You empathize with, get angry at, cry for and even shake your head at the characters. You make shifty eyes at Ellen Burstyn as Martha’s mother, Elizabeth, who wants Eva behind bars. Listen for a monologue about how she was born and get a tissue box ready. 

Cinematographer Benjamin Loeb crafts a beautifully simplistic film set in Massachusetts. Notice a long one-shot take in the first 30 minutes with no cuts. The film spans across eight months. We see gradual changes in seasons, from snowy streets in winter to clear blue skies and lush trees in spring. Look for a gorgeous apple tree in the ending.

“Pieces of a Woman” weaves themes of motherhood fears few want to speak of publicly.

On the contrary, Chrissy Teigen, wife of singer John Legend, openly publicized her Oct. 2020 miscarriage on Instagram. 

Miscarriages and infant deaths aren’t too common in America but still a deadly possibility. Movies like this empower women and show that recovery from such traumatic experiences is possible. Grief won’t last forever for a new beginning will come.

One minor concern in the movie may be its runtime of two hours. Some viewers may not like its slower approach. If you like your movies with a quicker pace, beware of that here. 

Mundruczó’s “Pieces of a Woman,” tells a grounded tearjerker guaranteed to rip out heartstrings. You will experience an emotional rollercoaster of grief, anxiety, anger, disgrace and hope. Its touchy subject of death in childbearing may reach close to home for some women and may serve as therapeutic. Have some tissues nearby and find out why “time heals all wounds.”