The Smell Of Apples
For 30 minutes, Pieces Of A Woman is breathtakingly good. The tone, pacing, storytelling and masterful camera work combine to produce a realistic depiction of a home birth.
Unlike many other Hollywood productions where two pushes are enough to pop out a child, Pieces Of A Woman is deliberately slow with its build up – and it’s all the stronger for it. Unfortunately, the ensuing drama that follows simmers out and eventually stagnates, only to bubble up slightly for a satisfying but ultimately underwhelming finale.
This is a real shame because Pieces Of A Woman certainly does a lot right. That opening scene, complete with burps, mood swings and a wet slap when Martha’s water breaks over the living room floor, perfectly captures the chaotic and unpredictable nature of child-birth.
As a 32 year old male, I do appreciate I don’t have first-hand experience but do vividly remember my partner shouting at the midwife and swearing.
For anyone who’s had kids, the overwhelming emotion that washes over you when you hold your child for the first time is indescribable. I’ve been lucky enough to do it twice – and yes I did cry both times!
Pieces Of A Woman then essentially plays out like every parent’s worst nightmare, drawn out and expanded into a 2 hour feature. How do you cope with the loss of a child? How do you pick up the pieces of your shattered life? And will those shards of glass ever form into something close to acceptance? These are powerful questions that writer Kata Wéber and Director Kornél Mundruczó attempt to answer across this story.
Unfortunately, the movie sets such impossibly high standards for itself early on that it inevitably stagnates into mediocrity for much of its run-time.
To be fair, the third act does right the ship slightly, with a triumphant final speech and an emotionally stirring climax that brings things into the realm of acceptance. Unfortunately it’s never quite high enough to reach the peaks achieved during the first act.
The biggest problem here comes from a middle chunk of about 90 minutes or so. A lot of the content here is drawn out, designed to accentuate the difficulties both Martha and her partner Sean have in working through their pain. Specifically, Pieces centers on the ensuing pressure building between Martha’s family and Sean over what to do with the child they lost.
This sickening game of tug and war is fronted by Martha’s complicated emotions that swing between anger, sorrow and outright apathy at what’s happened. While these emotions sit at the front of the story, buzzing like an excited swarm of wasps, they’re never given anything to really sink their stinger into. Instead, these emotions just sort of buzz around, not doing very much across drawn out scenarios and forced symbolism.
That symbolism manifests itself through a recurring motif of an apple. On its own, this would work perfectly but it’s used so much that it loses its poignancy late on.
Having said that though, Pieces Of A Woman is still a good movie but it’s one that misses out on being great. The themes and ideas are well presented, poignant and – most importantly – well acted. For the first 30 minutes alone, this is a must-watch title but the rest of the movie fails to capture that same urgency which is a real shame.