Also, spoiler alert: If you don’t want to know anything at all about what happens in this movie, don’t read this.
You can read this blog post in Spanish here.
I think Pieces of a Woman is overall a great movie and it tells an incredibly important story that needs to be told. I think the creators and the cast performed beautifully. It's shot beautifully, the acting is great, the story is compelling, the exploration of grief and autonomy are brilliant. I don’t think this movie was intrinsically created, as stated in some communities, as propaganda against home birth. The filmmakers experienced a loss and had to navigate the landscape of grief, guilt, and forgiveness that came with that. The movie did wonderful job exploring those subjects.
However, we do need to take a good look at the issue of representation and the incredible responsibility and power that media creators hold. Nowadays pretty much anyone can write a short story and put in in the internet or upload a video into YouTube, but not everyone can make a movie and distribute it. That costs a lot of money. What kind of movies get funding? What kind of stories are we being fed and how do they affect us?
THE NEGATIVE: REPRESENTATION OF BIRTH IN MEDIA IS SO POOR
When looking specifically at birth in movies what we find is honestly pathetic. The pregnant person is rarely truly the protagonist of the story, birth is portrayed as a fast and urgent matter that requires birthing people putting themselves completely in the hands of the medical system, screaming for help, for drugs, for a way out.
It’s almost tragic, in my opinion, that Pieces of a Woman has the best birth scene in perhaps all of the history of cinema and the result is a dead baby. It’s not that it doesn’t happen. Babies can die both during home births or at the hospital. But when you compare the numbers, in terms of representation, the effects it has in society at large is a process of manufacturing distrust in birth and the belief that women are unable to make their own decisions due to being “hormonal” and “hysterical.”
In reality, the vast majority of home births end up well.
In reality, a huge percentage of people giving birth in the hospital have C-Sections.
But we don’t see that.
I was recently particularly surprised to realize that we see very few C-sections in movies and shows. Even when the characters are giving birth to twins or breech babies, the typical scene with the woman in stir-ups, screaming at the top of her lungs and begging for drugs is what we see.
After watching that movie, I started thinking about how I would re-write it from a female point of view. And then I realized that once rewritten, the movie would probably never get funding.
I’m glad the stories of women are being told. I’m glad Vanessa Kirby got a chance to act in the powerful role of Martha. I’m glad there is a birth scene that shows the power of a woman giving birth. I’m glad that the main character stood up for the midwife at the end. I’m glad f*cking Shia LaBeouf’s character got lost. I’m glad they show the importance of birth photography. But I think it sucks that the only story with those important elements being highlighted is tied into the biggest fear of every pregnant woman out there having to make choices: losing a baby.
When have you seen a competent midwife supporting a successful home birth in a fictional movie (no documentaries)? Probably never.
So what happens when a pregnant person chooses not to put herself in the hands of a system that dismisses her worth? In the eyes of film and shows: her baby dies. Or she dies. Or both of them almost die. She shouldn’t have done that.
It’s not that “Pieces of a Woman” is a bad movie or that it takes sides. In my opinion it really doesn’t. It wouldn’t be a problem at all if there were at least 10 or so other mainstream movies out there that show people having home births and exercising their body autonomy without being punished for it.
Did you watch "Pieces of a Woman"? What did you think?