Kornel Mundruczo’s ‘Pieces of a Woman’ has a most harrowing opening scene – a home birth gone wrong. Even though I knew the outcome, it was still a stressful experience to watch (Kata Weber based the screenplay on her own experience) and yes, when things go horribly awry, you feel you are torn to shreds. Half an hour in, and after this scene, the opening credits come up, and the movie is jist starting, but you feel like you have gone through so much with these people. Vanessa Kirby and Shia LeBeouf play a husband and wife who have to deal with the aftermath of the tragedy, and their characters will haunt you – I am still shaken.
I know that there have been sexual allegations against LeBeouf of late, and that is a shame, because it distracts you from appreciating his wonderful performance here, as a husband who, with his wife, suffers from their loss. The character is sensitive and gruff at the same time – I saw someone describe it as Marlon Brando-ish. I really still think, sexual abuse case or not, that he is one of our best young actors.
But this is Kirby’s show, of course – it’s a great emotional and physical performance. She is a revelation to me, in the sense that I don’t think I have ever seen her performances before (sadly, I have not caught up with ‘The Crown’) She owns every minute when she is on screen, and you are gutted by her character’s pain. It’s unforgettable.
Ultimately, this film is such a tough watch. I call it the Schindler’s List syndrome – describing films that are such emotional downers to me that I don’t think I ever want to rewatch them.