FOLLOWING her break out turn in Netflix royal romp The Crown, Vanessa Kirby has enjoyed starring turns in some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters. Opposite Tom Cruise, Kirby played a money laundering arms dealer in the sixth Mission Impossible film and, only last year, she dominated Hobbs & Shaw, as Jason Statham’s secret service sister. In other words, this once Princess Margaret is now big movie money.

Kirby’s latest release, then, proves a rather left field move. Not unlike the likes of Scarlet Johansson, Pieces of a Woman sees the 32 year-old attempt to straddle both the high and low end of budgets. More cynically, such diversity might allow an actor of Kirby’s calibre to simultaneously well line her bank account and awards shelf. Whereas Pieces of a Woman is no out and out triumph, Kirby shines and has already nabbed a prestigious gong at last year’s Venice Film Festival. Less Mission Impossible, then, than mission achieved.

From Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó - a regular entrant at Cannes - the film sees Kirby play Martha Carson. Her husband is Sean and a similarly earnest performance by the less reliable Shia LaBeouf. Martha and Sean are expecting their first child as the film opens and soon come to rue the birthing experience they have in their Boston home. Molly Parker plays Eva, the well-meaning but fatally flustered midwife tasked with bringing their baby into the world and it is herein that tragedy strikes. When it does so, it does so hard.

Among a number of flaws, Pieces of a Woman suffers increasingly from contrivance in its second half. As Kirby and LaBeouf work fastidiously to convey the gut wrenching reality of their situation, extraneous details of plot - and a vehement court case - serve more to distract than compel.

Circumnavigating the film’s core, Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn brings gravitas as Martha’s austere mother - she disapproved of her daughter’s marriage to blue collar Sean from the start - whilst cinematographer Benjamin Loeb achieves some truly startling imagery throughout. Never is his work better than in the opening. Never is the film better than in its opening. Perhaps there is a link.

Indeed, Pieces of a Woman works best as a raw work of emotional theatre. Kirby is, without question, agonisingly good, even when her script is not. Catch the film on Netflix now.