Rated R for some truly dark material. But if I had to quantify what actually gets it an R rating, it would be nudity, sexuality, questionable issues with consent, and language throughout. One of the protagonists also deals with alcoholism. The entire thing is rather bleak, but that's also the point. Very R.
DIRECTOR: Kornél Mundruczó
I don't think just anyone can watch this movie. I suppose that could possibly true for lots of movies, but this one really hits hard to a specific audience. Part of me wants to beg those who have had a miscarriage to watch this because of how powerful the movie is. Part of me wants to shelter the same audience because I don't want to bring up past trauma. The antithesis is also true. While I want an audience who have never experienced this event to watch with the hope of engendering sympathy, I also feel like it shouldn't be viewed as pure entertainment. Film is meant to connect us. It's at the bottom of my page. It shouldn't always be comfortable.
But I find it difficult to both write this as a male and to imagine that a male directed this. From the husband's perspective, a miscarriage is a lot of things. It's nothing compared to what a woman must go through. But it is the story of fear. A baby, while emotionally there, is still mostly understood in the realm of intellect. I imagined the potential of what a child would be. But I never felt that child. I didn't have my body change. So the other end of the husband's perspective on miscarriage is the fear that my wife, the way I knew her and loved her, would never return. It's a lot of sadness, but it also is the willpower to understand that it isn't about me. It won't be about me possibly ever. So it is the balance of being vulnerable while also being a fortress, being able to turn it on and off. Pieces of a Woman talks about this because it can't possibly ignore this. But like when dealing with a real miscarriage, it is about the mother and how she has to cope with an impossible situation seemingly alone.
A few years ago, I, Tonya was nominated for Best Actress for Margot Robbie (I think. It may have been for Allyson Janney for Best Supporting). That movie completely destroyed and I was almost mad that it wasn't up for Best Picture. It might have been my favorite movie that year. I don't know if Pieces of a Woman would be my favorite film, but it is definitely a stronger outing than Promising Young Woman. Again, I didn't hate Promising Young Woman by any stretch of the imagination. But it feels like Pieces of a Woman has so much more to offer than simply a Best Actress nomination for Vanessa Kirby. Kirby is absolutely a tank in this movie. She crushes every scene she was in and I love to see her in a role outside of her part in The Crown. But Pieces of a Woman is such a vulnerable film that is well shot and well-paced. I don't really see why it hasn't transcended the place it stands right now. I tend to think of movies that just get a Best Actor / Actress nom as Oscar-baity movies, like Judy or The United States vs. Billie Holiday. But honestly, Pieces of a Woman is such an intimate story that really turns the concept of mourning on its head.
There's something insanely smart about this film. I have this love / hate relationship for the central conceit of the film. I'm not talking necessarily about the miscarriage here. I'm talking about the trial. I've often quoted Patton Oswalt with his stand-up bit about hospitals and lasers. I want every single piece of medical technology available to my wife when she gives birth. I can feel some people tensing up, thinking of the horrors of hospitals as well. That's not the camp we're in, sorry. But the movie definitely uses the concept of the midwife as a placeholder for the scapegoat. The hate element of my thoughts about this is how much media attention this case garners. But I do like the fact that the filmmakers decided to make the movie about something external to represent the internal conflict that Martha goes through. Instead of having the movie about wallowing (which it is definitely about, but...), the movie becomes about this court case that seems so vital to everyone. And then, the movie just flips the script and says what I was thinking the entire time: this poor woman really didn't do anything wrong.
Okay, I'm going to be walking on really thin ice here. But the movie went on thin ice first. Do I think that there might be an issues with midwives taking dangerous situations and making them worse? I'm not informed enough to really comment on it. But the film starts off with the labor happening in real time. Like 1917, we aren't given the opportunity to infer what might be happening in the in-between (syuzhet). It creates this very intimate feeling with the labor and delivery. (It's Vanessa Kirby's piece de resistance, by the way.) But we see a situation where there are no winners. This midwife knows that there is rarely a situation of things going by the book, but she played it mostly safe. So when it comes down to where the midwife may have made a mistake, we're looking at approximately thirty seconds difference between nailing everything and finding blame on this woman who was in a hopeless situation. And the insane thing is that the filmmakers show us this sequence and ask us to kind of forget about it. We have this psychological experiment of logically remembering that the midwife wasn't really at fault while simultaneously harboring an emotion memory for justice.
And then the protagonist came to the same conclusion. That was probably the most shocking thing for me. It wasn't a matter of "if she was guilty" throughout the movie. Everyone had a foregone conclusion that she was guilty, so when Martha speaks up for her...it's absolutely shocking. I mean, part of me really wanted that to be the answer. Part of that really needed it to be the answer. But then it was. And there's this whole commentary about learning to heal. Martha had hit this low. Her husband, for all of his grieving, revealed himself to be a jerk. She had alienated everyone around her. Her mother ended up being this toxic person. And she realized that it was about her relationship to other people. She doesn't have a kid, although it is implied that she would have another child down the road. Her first child died and it was tragic. But the movie is about not blaming each other when tragedy strikes. It's really this powerful message that absolutely crushes.
I loved this movie. It is hard to watch, to be sure. But I'm kind of floored that it didn't get more attention than it did.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.