Vanessa Kirby, 'Pieces of a Woman' Team on Depicting Grief and Motherhood

Director Kornél Mundruczó also opens up about casting Shia LeBeouf in the Netflix film.

Kornél Mundruczó and Kata Wéber are taking a deep look into grief and motherhood in their gut-wrenching drama Pieces of a Woman. 

The Netflix film stars Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf and follows a young couple Martha and Sean grappling with the loss of their newborn baby following a complicated home birth. The tragic event leads to a yearlong journey of Martha navigating her grief and fractured relationships in the face of unimaginable tragedy.

The story is a personal one for director Mundruczó and writer Wéber who both experienced the loss of a child.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter along with Vanessa Kirby and actress Ellen Burstyn, the filmmakers open up about the film being a therapeutic experience.

“We shared an experience of a miscarriage and I felt like I should write about it in someway,” says Wéber. “I wanted to write about the loss but while I was writing, I realized I'm also writing about the love and grace and the light within the story and that felt so empowering.”

Kirby notes that the story immediately resonated with her, knowing that it is a topic that is so rarely discussed, saying “it’s happened to even more women that I could imagine in my own close life as well as society generally.”

She also credited women like Meghan Markle, who recently wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about her pregnancy loss, as well as Chrissy Teigen for opening up about her experience, saying “I know that we’re just beginning to be able to talk about it."

Kirby’s performance in particular has garnered attention and acclaim from critics, with THR's David Rooney writing that she "gives a tough performance, bleeding beneath her armor-plated guard but refusing to soften Martha's abrasive sides as she undertakes the isolating work of learning to live with her loss.”

However such praise comes as no surprise to Mundruczó.

The director compares the actress to iconic film stars such as Claudia Cardinale and Catherine Deneuve and noted that he was a big fan of Kirby’s after watching The Crown.

“I was a huge fan of Princess Margaret,” he says. “My strategy [for this role] was to create a silence. The silence is the most important entity, so it was, 'How can I find someone who can handle this?' And she was strong and she was secretful and she was rich and she was beautiful and I was like I wanna do this movie with her.”

And as for his decision to cast LaBeouf, the director states that as the cracks in LaBeouf’s character slowly begin to show in the film, it was important to find someone that fit the role of “a misfit for the family."

“We need someone very different,” he notes. “We need someone who has experience with addiction and that's why we felt that he was a good choice.”

Veteran actress Ellen Burstyn, who stars in the film as Kirby's mother, Elizabeth, also praises both actors, saying “They both know how to be real, to not be superficial or pretending to be the character but really embody the character. [The film] takes on a different experience when you're with actors that are able to go there.”

The cast and filmmakers also spoke to THR about the critical labor scene at the top of the film, with Mundruczó noting that he wanted the pivotal moment to feel as realistic as possible.

“The most important thing was to use that shot as a oner, so you are closed into that situation” he says. “And it was important to go through the variety of emotions, to be raw, be emotional, to be experienced-like, to be like a film in a film.”

Kirby also noted of the intense scene saying she’d “never seen a birth like that on screen."

When it came to preparing for the crucial scene, the actress explained that as she has never given birth herself, she turned to films and documentaries for research. However none of them gave her an accurate depiction of what an actual birth was like.

“I started writing to a lot of obstetricians and one amazing one in North London allowed me to come in and shadow her on the labor ward,” she explains.

Miraculously, one day while Kirby was shadowing the doctor, a woman went into labor and allowed her to be in the delivery room.

“It was the most amazing generous act and I knew I never could have begun to act it without really witnessing what it's actually like," Kirby says.

And as for women that have experienced such unimaginable loss, Kirby says this film is for them.

“We all had that responsibility,” she says. “There was always something bigger about the film than just us. I spent time with people that had been through it and lost babies and shared their stories. Everyday it was for them and it was led by them.”

Pieces of a Woman is out now on Netflix. Watch the video above for the full interview.