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Star turn Review: Vanessa Kirby is sensational in 'Pieces of a Woman'

Pieces of a Woman (15): Four stars


Vanessa Kirby in 'Pieces of a Woman'

Vanessa Kirby in 'Pieces of a Woman'

Vanessa Kirby in 'Pieces of a Woman'

WHAT a run of work Vanessa Kirby is having. Following on from her scene-stealing (and BAFTA-winning) turn as Princess Margaret in The Crown, Kirby is sensational in this drama, new to Netflix this weekend.

She is outstanding as Martha Weiss, a woman whose life gets thrown into turmoil following the tragic circumstances of a home birth. It’s easily her greatest performance in what is an already impressive career, and a role that is likely to make her a serious contender for best actress as awards season nears.

Little wonder casting agents are lining up to work with her, with two more Mission: Impossible movies among her many forthcoming projects.

But be warned: Pieces Of A Woman is a tough watch, one that deals with a very difficult subject matter that has impacted many Irish women. There is hope here too, but if you’re even thinking of getting pregnant, you might want to take a rain check.

Set in Boston, Martha (Kirby) is in a steady and loving relationship with Sean (LaBeouf), despite their different backgrounds — she’s from a wealthy family while he’s a blue-collar labourer. LaBeouf is very good here in support, reminding you of his capabilities if he could only move beyond his personal issues.

Despite his tricky relationship with her mother Elizabeth (an excellent Burstyn), they are united and looking forward to the birth of their first child, a girl.

It’s a lengthy scene near the very beginning of the film that is the toughest part of it to watch — all 23 minutes of it. Martha has decided she wants to have a home birth, and when her labour begins to come on quite quickly, Sean calls her appointed midwife, only to discover she is at another birth.

A replacement, Eva (Molly Parker) attends to replace her, and tension and tragedy mount.

A court case, much of it driven by Elizabeth in desperate need for her daughter to find closure, follows. But director Kornel Mundruczo is more concerned with Martha’s aftermath as every aspect of her life — her relationship, her health, her working life and even her very identity — seem to be slipping from her grasp.

It’s difficult viewing, and sometimes quite uneven, but the movie is ultimately a tale of complex human emotions, anchored by a terrific Kirby.

The stars: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn.

The Story: A woman’s life unravels following tragedy during a home birth.

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Online Editors