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TW: This review discusses the loss of an infant which may be distressing for some readers.

Pieces of a Woman (2020) is a heartbreaking, raw depiction of one couple’s journey through grief and healing in the months following a tragic loss. The audience is introduced to Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean as they make final preparations for the birth of their first child. Just over 20 minutes of the 2-hour 6-minute film is dedicated to Martha’s gruelling labour and home delivery, seizing the viewer at the outset and not letting go. Directed by Hungarian film and theatre director Kornél Mundruczó, Pieces of a Woman demonstrates the realities of what some females endure during childbirth and it highlights the common feelings of fear, uncertainty and courage when confronted with unplanned circumstances during labour. This film sheds light on the millions of mothers and fathers who have experienced the unexpected and unexplained loss of an infant.

For the remainder of the film, the audience follows Martha and Sean as they trudge through the months ensuing their traumatic loss. Mundruczó captures the immense stress and anger that enters their relationship as a result of their profound grief. This film encapsulates the variations and complexities of individual grief. It demonstrates that there is no single or correct way to mourn.

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian criticizes the film for its alleged inauthenticity and claims that “everything in the middle – the people on the screen and their relationships look like high-flown imaginings, far from real life.” While the film lacks detailed character development to help the viewer understand certain twists in the plot, it is indeed authentic. The intention of the film may not involve having thoroughly developed characters but by leaving the characters a bit underdeveloped, the audience experiences many shades of emotion - wonderment, shock and sometimes confusion. These are reactions and emotions associated with grief, leaving the viewer with much to unpack even after the film’s conclusion.

Pieces of a Woman reminds us that life is fragile and uncertain. For some people, this film will be unbearable to watch, while others may feel comfortable knowing they are not the only one who has suffered through such traumas. We all process trauma and loss differently, but we need not suffer alone.

Pieces of a Woman is currently streaming on Netflix


Julia is a postgraduate student studying International Conflict Studies at King's College London. Originally from the Greater Boston area, she enjoys English weather but will always be a sucker for the cold, snowy winters and hot, humid summers of New England. She wouldn't mind spending her career behind a computer, whether researching and writing about past and present events in the international sphere, or writing more fun and creative lifestyle pieces.
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