Vanessa Kirby was a rapidly rising star of the British stage and had turned in a tidy collection of strong supporting performances in films by such disparate directors as Richard Curtis, John Boorman, Baltasar Kormákur, and the Wachowskis when she landed the role of Princess Margaret in the first two seasons of the hit Netflix series The Crown. Blockbusters followed, naturally: Mission: Impossible – Fallout in 2018 and last year’s Fast & Furious spin-off, Hobbs & Shaw. Now Kirby has arrived in Venice as the star of two films premiering in competition. Pieces of a Woman, directed by Kornél Mundruczó and written by Kata Wéber, has been met with mixed to favorable reviews, while praise for Mona Fastvold’s The World to Come has been close to unanimous.
Pieces of a Woman does have a mighty strong champion, though, in Jessica Kiang. If, for the Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney, this drama is “so unflinching that its sunny coda feels almost like a betrayal,” Kiang argues at the Playlist that the film “dares to end in optimism, even in the aftermath of despair, because it understands how jealously we guard and nurture our grief when it feels like the only piece we have left of someone we loved. But equally it understands that sometimes, with borderline miraculous suddenness, when the sand in some invisible internal hourglass has finally run out, the grief itself will tell us that it’s time to let it go.”
New neighbors arrive: Tallie (Kirby) and her husband, Finney (Christopher Abbott), whose silence will become more menacing when Abigail and Tallie begin spending as much time together as they can steal. Kirby “gets to play the life-breathing force of this story, and is duly magnetic without giving in to whirling free-spirit cliché,” writes Guy Lodge in Variety. “Her Tallie may be more outspoken in her emotions than her neighbor, but she also wearily knows the score for women like her, seizing moments of freedom where she can and gritting her teeth for the rest. She duets beautifully with Waterston, who arguably has the harder task of guiding the audience through her cramped, slowly widening view of the world, and whose running voiceover handles the earthy poetics of Shepard and Hansen’s writing with aching care.”