Viewer beware. Pieces of a Woman is one hell of a downer. Not the most optimistic way to start out the 2021 movie year. This is a film about every pregnant couple's worst nightmare, and the fallout that follows from a horrible tragedy. Grief can be a poison, infecting everything around you if you let it. It's hard to overcome grief, and it takes time above all else. This film takes you through the grieving process through the eyes of Martha Weiss, played phenomenally by Vanessa Kirby. Unfortunately, this film has been overshadowed by controversy surrounding her costar Shia LaBeouf, who is now facing sexual assault allegations. That's a shame for a number of reasons, one of them being that the film is really good and deserves the opportunity to stand on its own.
The first thirty minutes of the film are a nearly uninterrupted take showing the birth of Martha and Sean's (LaBeouf) daughter. Of course, things take a very dark turn, and the baby fails to breathe. The rest of the movie takes you month by month into the couple's grieving process. Martha has shut down emotionally and lashes out at everyone trying to help. Sean, a recovering alcoholic, has relapsed and doesn't know how to comfort Martha. These two continue to spiral, with Martha's mother (Burstyn) manipulating them both to her own ends. All the while, the poor midwife (Parker) faces prison time for the baby's death. It's a dark movie, with only the faintest glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. But you need to make it through the whole movie before you get that light.
Pieces of a Woman is another win for Netflix, and might garner possible Oscar attention for Vanessa Kirby and Ellen Burstyn. Shia had his chance too, but he blew it when he beat the shit out of his ex-girlfriend. I can see this film used as a tool to help people in similar situations figure out how to cope and how not to cope. Above all, though, it's a solid drama with a host of fantastic performances.