Ketchup Cut: Pieces of a woman, celebrating life while capturing the grief of loss

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Smrithi Mohan
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Pieces of a woman


Ketchup Cut discusses how Vanessa Kirby played out a 23-min shot of home birth in Pieces of a Woman without actually experiencing it in RL and the impact it left on the audience.

Realism has become a primary notion for movies across the world. Moviemakers are trying to adapt and capture the moments as close to reality as possible. The fact that a movie receives positive reviews from the audience for how it treats an issue proves just that. In today's Ketchup cut we discuss Pieces of a Woman and one of its most impactful scenes.

About the movie:

Director – Kornél Mundruczó

Cast – Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn, Molly Parker, Sarah Snook

Screenplay Writer – Kata Wéber

Where to watchNetflix

The movie is about a young couple Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf), from Boston who has been preparing for a home birth. But unfortunately, the couple experiences a devastating ending to their wait as they lose their child after birth. This movie then covers a woman grieves this loss.

Ketchup Cut:

Is there a standard set of rules that suggest how people should grieve after being hit by an unimaginable trauma? Because no matter how many people experience a similar kind of loss, they don't usually react in the same way. Losing a child is one of such trauma that nobody can understand other than someone who goes through it. This movie captures the various facets of how people respond to such immense loss. This story is a depiction of realism taken from the lives of ordinary people and weaved into a 2-hour long movie. Storytelling is all about capturing what makes people human and their various emotions. And this movie talks about the emotions that follow an agonizing trauma. Two scenes stand out in Pieces of a Woman. One that shows the birth, one that shows the loss.

It starts off with hope and joy as we watch Martha slowly screaming in pain and anticipation to welcome their baby. The couple is at their most vulnerable state as they wait for their child to be born and to be parents after all the time. We see them comforting each other, kissing, joking, and crying in each other's arms as the audience sits on the edge, feeling bad as she groans in pain and also appreciating the most beautiful moments in one's life. Sean giving Martha a framed picture of her ultrasound in the earlier scene when they got into the min-van, both of them leaving their respective jobs to go have their baby, almost everything added up to this moment. And we see Martha give birth in a 23-minute long shot.

Things go bad shortly after and all our smiles turn into a frown as we realize something bad has happened. We see a couple's happiness perish as the newborn dies soon after being born. The scene stays with us and haunts us even after the ambulance arrives and when Martha walks into her office without completing her maternity leave.

It's the fear, chaos, and utter confusion of how one should react to what has just happened that makes this scene stand out. The moment when Martha is on the bed all curdled up, like the midwife, Molly suggested, Sean calls 911, and him not finding the phone gets them all worked up. They'd planned their home birth for a long time but not knowing what to do in an emergency, the helplessness that they must've felt is what makes us human. Throughout the scene, you feel your heart pounding. Cinema has its own way of depicting a birth scene and over the years, we know how it might play out. A woman groaning and crying for a moment until we hear the child cry. But this scene in particular just leaves us clutching our own stomach, (almost) experiencing the pain and the stress that the soon-to-be mother is going through. Martha being nauseous and burping before going into labor, biting on Sean's calf, and just pacing through the whole thing waiting for it to be over soon had us all on the edge.

While the movie has many impactful scenes, this one leaves its own footprints with the direction and character depiction.

About Pieces of a Woman:

In her interview with AnOther Magazine, actor Vanessa Kirby talked about what made her choose the script. She said, “This is something so many women go through, and no one talks about it. And the women that have gone through it find it hard to even mention it because society makes it such an uncomfortable thing. When your heart wants it to be of service to someone out there … it makes it so much easier as an actor. That was our big purpose, and it still is really.”

Fun Facts:

Mundruczó and Wéber had written the script for their 2018 stageplay of the same name which was then turned into a movie.

Sam Levinson and Martin Scorsese are the executive producers of the film.

The story of the film is, in a way, based on Wéber's own experience of losing her child with her husband and the film's director Mundruczo.

The birth scene is a continuous 24-min single shot.

Awards and Recognition:

  • Academy Awards nominated for Best Actress
  • Alliance of Women Film Journalists nominated for Best Actress, Most Daring Performance Award, Best Actress in a Supporting Role and Grand Dame Award for defying ageism
  • British Academy Film Awards nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role
  • Casting Society of America nominated for Feature Studio Or Independent – Drama
  • Critics' Choice Awards nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress
  • Golden Globe Awards nominated for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
  • Hollywood Music in Media Awards nominated for Best Original Score in a Feature Film
  • Houston Film Critics Society nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress
  • London Film Critics' Circle Awards nominated for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best British/Irish Actress
  • San Diego Film Critics Society Awards Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Breakthrough Artist
  • Santa Barbara International Film Festival won Virtuosos Awards
  • Satellite Awards nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress
  • St. Louis Film Critics Association nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress
  • Screen Actors Guild Awards nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
  • Venice International Film Festival nominated for Golden Lion, won for Young Cinema Award and Volpi Cup for Best Actress

Which is your favorite moment from Pieces of a Woman? Let us know in the comments below!

Also Read - Ketchup Cut: Gully Boy a tale of friendship, life, and underground rap

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