PIECES OF A WOMAN – Review by Susan Granger

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As their story begins, pregnant Martha (Vanessa Kirby) is feted at an office baby shower, while her husband Sean (Shia LaBeouf), a construction engineer on a Charles River bridge project in Boston, is so eager to become a father that he frames the ultrasound photographs of their daughter to hang in the nursery.

Preparing for a home birth, they call the midwife when Martha’s contractions are six minutes apart. But the midwife is delayed; Eva (Molly Parker), a substitute, takes her place. The birth is depicted over a period of 25 tense, agonizing minutes.

Although the baby appears healthy at first, she suddenly ‘turns blue’ and paramedics arrive too late to save her. Subsequent findings by the medical examiner are inconclusive as to cause of death.

While brutish Sean, who has a history of addiction, is openly distraught, grieving Martha becomes coldly clinical, deciding to donate the infant’s body to medical research. That horrifies her controlling mother, Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn), who is determined to sue Eva, enlisting the aid of an attorney/cousin (Sarah Snook), who is confident they can win criminal and civil manslaughter cases against the midwife.

Scripted in several distinct sections by Kata Weber from her own semi-autobiographical experience and helmed by her husband, Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo (White Dog), making his English-language debut, it unfolds on random days over a period of eight months.

Although she has never been pregnant, Vanessa Kirby observed several women in labor which, obviously, contributes to her animalistic authenticity. An experienced stage/TV actress (young Princess Margaret in “The Crown” & opposite Tom Cruise in “Mission Impossible: Fallout”), this is Kirby’s first leading role in a feature film.

For families that have experienced losing a child, this film could touch an emotionally wrenching trigger, particularly coupled with gratuitous nudity, an extramarital affair and a graphic near-rape scene.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, Pieces of a Woman is a distressingly visceral 6, bleak and bizarre – streaming on Netflix.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.