Pieces of a Woman @ TIFF

Fresh off its debut at the Venice Film Festival where lead actress Vanessa Kirby won the Best Actress award, Kornel Mundruczo’s (Jupiter’s Moon, White God) Pieces of a Woman is now screening at TIFF.

Starting off as a theatre actress, it is the Netflix series The Crown which brought Vanessa Kirby to the world. Her talent. The breadth of it. What is in the water over in England? That country just produces a large number of quality actors, doesn’t it. Kirby is in her early thirties and I do not think it is overstating matters to say she is one of the best of her age. She keeps adding one impressive performance after another to the list.

Here she plays a woman who goes through something unimaginable and then has to deal with an overbearing mother and a crumbling marriage to boot. Everything here is heartbreaking, awful, tense, and raw. Much is asked of Vanessa Kirby. She delivers in spades.

Filmed in Montreal over a winter and spring, it tells the tale of a youngish couple living in Boston who are about to have their first child. Martha (Vanessa Kirby – Fast and Furious: Hobbs & Shaw, Mission Impossible – Fallout) is very pregnant. She and her husband Sean (Shia LaBeouf – Honey Boy, Transformers), a blue collar worker, have just had a new car bought for them by her mother Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn – Requiem for a Dream, The Exorcist).

The couple has decided on a home birth, but when their regular midwife is busy with another delivery, she sends Eva (Molly Parker – from television’s Deadwood). A tragedy occurs and it alters everyone’s lives – Martha, Sean and Eva. All begin to spiral. No one knows how to deal with this kind of loss.

Though it is mostly a sombre and quiet film there are moments which will shatter you. All the pain. The tragedy. Then there is the second scene after the short introduction. The birthing scene. One of the more graphic and realistic scenes of a birth I have ever seen. Vanessa Kirby has fully committed and as a result you are drawn in.

Her performance is astonishing. She is a woman who many will classify as cold. Someone who is not dealing with things as we would expect. We expect sobbing, wailing and screaming. When Martha remains quiet those around her are disturbed. Kirby gives us a glimpse into ripping grief. That there is no one way to deal with something like this. We, due to the depth of performance, are empathetic with Martha even though she is not warm and fuzzy.

Human existence can be filled with grief. It is part of everyone’s life. Maybe not to this level, but we can all relate. What Martha and many women go through is horrible. Horrible and we don’t talk about it. Women who this happens to are having to deal with it in isolation. Stories like this need to be told more often, so women are not left thinking they are the only ones.

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