Drama films

Pieces of a Woman review – vehement but inauthentic childbirth drama | Drama films

HThe Ugandan director Kornél Mundruczó deserves our thanks for going somewhere few filmmakers want to go: on a branch. Many times his neck has been risked and his arm has been risked; he makes films to challenge us. White God (2014) was a Hitchcockian nightmare about a mass uprising among all the dogs in a city, and Jupiter’s Mood (2017) was a fantastic superhero parable about a Syrian refugee able to fly after being shot dead by an immigration officer. .

Most of her films have been set in Hungary, but this new drama, scripted by Kata Wéber (who also wrote White God and Jupiter’s Moon), is her first English-language film, set in an undetermined American city (but shot in Quebec). It is a vehement, candid and at times incredibly painful and upsetting emotional drama about the death of a baby; her two stars, Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf, still give her more than 10,000%, especially Kirby. This is clearly a film that is personally committed to its creators; I wanted to admire it and in a way I do. But there’s something embarrassing and conspiratorial about it, once we get past the real-time ordeal of its terrifying opening scene. There are times when a North American transplant from this European director isn’t convincing, and the central location itself is like a pop-art image rather than the real passionate thing. We are uncomfortably close to the territory of Lars von Trier, or perhaps Atom Egoyan in its most normative form.

Sean (LaBeouf) is a builder working on a bridge whose construction we very symbolically see being completed throughout the drama. He’s a rudimentary, blue-collar man, but his pregnant partner, Martha (Kirby), comes from a more upscale background. Her aging mother, Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn), is a tough woman of Hungarian Jewish descent who as a baby escaped the Holocaust and is now in the early stages of dementia. She disapproves of the oafish Sean and is not so subtly dismayed by the fact of the pregnancy which seems to make her unhappy union with her daughter permanent. She also angered Sean by insisting on buying the couple an expensive family-type minivan, thanks to the good offices of his son-in-law, car dealership Chris (played by director and actor Benny Safdie).

The moment of the birth arrives, and with it a well-meaning midwife named Eva (Molly Parker), a last-minute replacement for the one they wanted, but who takes Martha’s desire to have her baby seriously. at home. Tragedy strikes like lightning, and Kirby shows how Martha goes into a state of shock and untreated rage and horror. The film convincingly and sympathetically shows how Sean believes his decisions after the tragedy to be an act of self-harm that she will regret, and also describes how this terrible event sparked all of Elizabeth’s anguished thoughts on what to do. to survive.

But the film also gets bogged down in many frankly inauthentic, silly, and discordant plot points involving the existence of Martha’s cousin, a fierce lawyer named Suzanne whom Elizabeth wants to fight for lawsuits and also for compensation. : she is played by Sarah Snook. (Shiv, from the estate of TV). This character is summarily imagined, and the legal matter and its technical courtroom details are unconvincing.

The film is at its best at the beginning (scary) and also, perhaps, at the very end with its enigmatic, almost dreamlike scene, centered around an apple tree. The physicality of this opening, heartbreaking streak is heavily handled: it has drama and compassion. (Interestingly, Susie Orbach is considered a “technical expert.”) But as with everything in the middle, the people on screen and their relationships look like high-flying imaginations, far from the real thing. real life. The film is like an intensively cultivated greenhouse flower that cannot exist in the open.

Released on December 30 in theaters, and January 7 on Netflix.

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