TIFF 2020: “Pieces of a Woman” struggles with the many faces of grief

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Vanessa Kirby shines in Kornél Mundruczó’s otherwise uneven drama about a couple cratering from the loss of their baby.

(This review is part of our coverage of the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival.)

Most parents can relate to the great anticipation felt by Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf), the expectant couple at the center of Kornél Mundruczó’s Pieces of a Woman. As the delivery date of their unborn child approaches, they celebrate with a baby shower, framed ultrasound photos, and a newly decorated room. Sean can even be seen practicing his dad jokes. But what happens when things don’t go according to plan?

Before long, the big night arrives. As is their wish, they arrange a home birth with the help of a midwife named Eva (played by Molly Parker). The process starts out well enough, with the baby showing a stable heartbeat and Martha experiencing the normal signs of labor. Though there’s a brief moment of worry requiring Martha to shift her position, the crying baby is eventually born to the parents’ relief. 

Their joy quickly turns to distress, however, when the baby suddenly turns blue. Frantic, Eva orders Sean to call an ambulance …

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