Pieces Of A Woman stars Shia LaBeouf and Vanessa Kirby as a couple dealing with severe trauma, and opens with such an incredible, intense first thirty minutes (most of which being one single long take) that I’m pretty sure I just outright stopped blinking as I watched their evening unfold. Unfortunately the remainder of the feature never quite hits these highs again, but I’m still left thinking about that opening long after the credits have rolled.
Shawn (LaBeouf) and Martha (Kirby) are expecting their first child and determined to experience an at-home birth. But despite the attempts of a well-meaning midwife (Molly Parker), things do not go as planned. Pieces Of A Woman goes on to explore how the couple deals with their grief: with legal battles, anger, sadness, and Martha’s mothers own views on how you are ‘supposed’ to grieve.
Whilst LaBeouf would ordinarily shine in this kind of feature – and he is still undoubtedly very good here – he is eclipsed by Vanessa Kirby’s performance. She delivers an incredible five-star performance in a three-star movie, and is what stops this from becoming entirely your run-of-the-mill tragedy story. We’re talking incredible monologues, scene-stealing without saying a word, Oscar-nomination worthy acting.
It’s a shame, then, that the rest of the story doesn’t quite hold up to Kirby’s performance. I wish Pieces Of A Woman placed more focus on the unique, fascinating courtroom trial of a midwife facing time in prison. Instead, we get a family drama story that’s been seen hundreds of times before. The feature ends on a high note by shifting focus to this trial, thankfully, but there’s a lot of wasted time to get to the good stuff. (see: angry dinners, tense car rides, secrecy, etc.)
This may be a predictable feature beyond the 30-minute-mark, but that long-shot opening is just. so. good. Some will love the direction the movie takes past this point, but I couldn’t help but feel there was squandered potential to show something more unique.