Pieces of a Woman Parent Guide
This clearly demonstrates that even stellar performances don't guarantee a good movie.
Parent Movie Review
What’s your worst nightmare? For most parents, it’s losing a child. The primal nature of that fear leads me to wonder how many people are going to watch Pieces of a Woman. If you haven’t had a child, this movie might just scare you out of trying to get pregnant. If you have experienced neonatal or pregnancy loss, the story will bring back excruciating memories. And if you have a baby at home, you’ll be anxiously hanging over the side of the crib making sure the little one is breathing.
Pieces of a Woman begins with a sense of nervous anticipation as Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LeBeouf) begin the home birth of their first child. In a remarkable 24 minute single take, the camera follows Martha through the delivery, as excitement frays into fear and then to anguish. As their world comes crashing down, the young couple are thrown into the alien realm of grief, with its feelings of isolation, disconnection, and confusion. They are, as the saying goes, “alive in the bitter sea.”
Where this production shines is in its depiction of loss and mourning. Vanessa Kirby gives a raw and searing portrayal of Martha’s bereavement. She’s brittle, fragile, empty, and enraged but she doesn’t want pity, just understanding – which is the one thing she doesn’t get. Shia LaBeouf gives a mostly wooden portrayal as her self-centered husband, although he occasionally manages to successfully emote strong feeling. But he is overshadowed by Ellen Burstyn as Martha’s ferociously controlling mother.
Sadly, Pieces of a Woman clearly demonstrates that stellar performances don’t automatically lead to a good film. The movie is burdened with numerous flaws, including poor editing. At just over two hours, it somehow manages to feel even longer. It also has an annoying legal subplot with the improbable assignment of Martha’s cousin as the prosecutor in the criminal trial arising from the baby’s death. No state prosecutor’s office would permit a lawyer with a clear conflict of interest to conduct a case.
Also troubling is the negative content that comes along with the story. If the scenes around the delivery and death of an infant aren’t disturbing enough for you, there is also an episode of domestic violence and frequent scenes of main characters smoking, drinking, and (in one instance), snorting cocaine. There is also plenty of sex in the film, both marital and adulterous, and audiences get two dimly lit views of Shia LaBeouf’s genitals, which I would prefer not to see. Add in over 60 profanities, and there’s plenty of material viewers will find objectionable.
Miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal loss are distressingly common, with one in four pregnancies ending in miscarriage alone. A film that explores the issue both honestly and accessibly would be enormously helpful. Unfortunately, Pieces of a Woman isn’t that film.Directed by Kornél Mundruczó. Starring Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn. Running time: 126 minutes. Theatrical release January 7, 2021. Updated October 2, 2021
Watch the trailer for Pieces of a Woman
Pieces of a Woman
Rating & Content Info
Why is Pieces of a Woman rated R? Pieces of a Woman is rated R by the MPAA for language, sexual content, graphic nudity and brief drug use.
Violence: An angry man shouts at a doctor. A man yells at his wife and throws a ball at her face. A woman tells harrowing stories from the Holocaust.
Sexual Content: A married couple kisses repeatedly. Scenes of a woman in labor show her abdomen and backside. A midwife performs an internal exam: genitals are not visible. A man grabs his wife’s hand and sticks it in his briefs and puts his hand down her pants. He initiates sexual activity and his buttocks are visible. There are two scenes where a man’s genitals are briefly visible in dim light (one scene is adulterous). The side of a woman’s breast is seen while she showers. A married character kisses someone to whom they are not married.
Profanity: The film is full of profanity, with over 30 sexual expletives and two dozen terms of deity. There are also scatological curses, crude anatomical terms, and a derogatory term for women.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Main characters smoke cigarettes in more than one scene. A man pours alcohol in a thermos. A main character snorts cocaine. A main character drinks alcohol: she appears tipsy.
Page last updated October 2, 2021
Pieces of a Woman Parents' Guide
The movie paints a heartrending picture of neonatal loss, but childbirth-related losses are all too common for women. For other first person accounts, read the following links.
Human Parts: When You Lose a Pregnancy at Home
The New York Times: The Losses We Share
The New York Times: Family Stories
What kind of supports exist for those who have experienced pregnancy loss? What can you do to help a friend after a miscarriage or stillbirth?
Today’s Parent: Pregnancy loss and miscarriage support groups and events
Miscarriage Association: Supporting someone through pregnancy loss
Still Standing: 15 Simple Ways to Help Grieving Families Following Stillbirth
Related home video titles:
A miscarriage is a plot element in The Time Traveler’s Wife. A husband and wife are torn apart after their son’s accidental death in Rabbit Hole. Considering Love and Other Magic tells the story of a young woman whose part time job as a tutor helps her deal with her brother’s suicide.
Dirt Music features a man whose life has been scarred by family tragedy.