Pieces of a Woman is one of the most emotionally taxing films I’ve seen in this young year, and it could also be one of the best.

It’s a movie about complicated people dealing with complicated feelings that relies more on subtle glances and expressions than emotional outbursts to communicate the drama. Better still, the film avoids the traps many of these dramas fall into (blatant attempts at Oscar-bait, overly depressing tone) while still getting an emotional reaction from the viewer.

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Pieces of a Woman is a well-acted and intimate drama that stands out among Netflix’s catalogue and announces star Vanessa Kirby (The Crown, Hobbs & Shaw, Mission: Impossible-Fallout) as a dramatic powerhouse.

What Makes Pieces of a Woman Work

pieces of a woman cast

Martha and Sean Weiss (Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf) are a happy couple awaiting the birth of their baby.  However, seconds after the baby is born, replacement midwife Eva (Molly Parker) notices something is wrong and tells Sean to call an ambulance, but it arrives too late.  As the months pass, Martha and Sean attempt to grieve, remain strong as a couple, and deal with Martha’s elderly mother Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn), who’s pressuring them to condemn Eva at an upcoming court hearing.

Pieces of a Woman is a fantastic acting showcase. The entire cast is great, but Kirby, LaBeouf, and Burstyn are the MVPs. Each is required to convey their emotions just as much through facial expressions and body language as they are with dialogue and they all knock it out of the park. They feel like real, flawed human beings whose actions we don’t always condone, but can understand why they’re making such choices.  It would have been easy to simplify these characters and overplay the drama of their situation, but screenwriter Kata Weber and director Kornel Mundruczo resist that temptation and even end the film on a somewhat optimistic note.

Pieces of a Woman is a powerful human drama whose strong performances, complex characters, and emotionally honest screenplay make it an early frontrunner for best of the year.

4 out of 5 stars (one of the best of the year)

Rated R For Language, Sexual Content, Graphic Nudity, and Brief Drug Use

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