'Pieces of Her' review: Netflix series opens with a captivating plot, but loses momentum

The new Netflix show, starring Toni Collette, is devoid of twists, turns and suspense, and is more concerned with teasing viewers than enthralling them

Toni Collette as Laura and Bella Heathcote as her daughter Andy in 'Pieces of Her'. Photo: Netflix
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All of the elements are there for Pieces of Her to have been Netflix’s next smash-hit mystery crime show.

The series, directed by Minkie Spiro, is based on the 2018 novel of the same name by the hugely popular crime writer Karin Slaughter, whose books have sold more than 35 million copies worldwide. Plus, it features a tremendous roster of actors, including Toni Collette, who over the past five years has firmly established herself as one of film’s most compelling performers thanks to her work in titles such as Hereditary, Knives Out and Nightmare Alley.

Yet, despite these components and a potentially mesmerising plot full of intrigue and surprises, Pieces of Her never manages to be anywhere near as addictive or captivating as it should.

Pieces of Her

Stars: Toni Collette, Bella Heathcote, David Wenham, Omari Hardwick  

Director: Minkie Spiro

Rating:2/5

Set in a small town in Georgia in the US, it opens with Andrea Oliver (Bella Heathcote), a down-on-her-luck administrator for the police department who still lives at home with her mother, Laura, played by Collette.

To celebrate Andrea’s 30th birthday, the pair go out for lunch. When a deadly mass shooting suddenly starts to unfold, Laura seamlessly and violently kills the murderer with ease, which quickly turns her into a media sensation.

Before Andrea can process her mother’s actions, Laura forces her to go on a mysterious road trip across America. But as she looks to escape the dangerous people who are now after her, Andrea also tries to find the answers to her mother’s past, which Laura had been trying to keep hidden for her entire life.

Pieces of Her actually gets off to a very impressive start. It quickly establishes the uncomfortable dynamic between the mother and daughter, as Andrea is struggling to adjust to being back home, and Laura is seen as the cornerstone of the community. It then depicts the mass shooting in a brutal and terrifying manner. It is genuinely suspenseful to watch: as three people are shot dead in cold blood, Collette is stabbed straight through the hand, and then the perpetrator’s throat is sliced.

By the end of its first episode, you’ll almost certainly be hooked, as it hints at the deception and secrets that will drive the plot. Unfortunately, though, over the course of its next three episodes, it fails to build on that momentum.

Collette is warm and motherly on the surface as Laura, but always hints at a strength and ruthlessness beneath. Photo: Netflix

Rather than being packed with twists and turns, or being incredibly suspenseful and dramatic, it frustratingly keeps its revelations hidden and just out of reach. That would be fine if the plot and set-pieces of each new episode were worthwhile. But instead, the show seems more interested in teasing its audiences rather than enthralling them.

Pieces of Her also might be more enjoyable if it were visually more dynamic. But its cinematography falls flat.

While it handles its opening set piece well, the subsequent action and thriller sequences unfold in a dull and predictable manner, which is all the more disappointing since Collette is so perfect for the role of Laura. On the surface, she’s warm and motherly, but she always makes sure to hint at a strength and ruthlessness that makes the character so intriguing.

That’s not enough to save Pieces of Her, though. The strong cast, which as well as Collette and Heathcote includes David Wenham, Omari Hardwick, Joe Dempsie and Terry O’Quinn, all deserve much better. And at this point, after a string of disappointing shows, Netflix should be producing much better, too.

All eight episodes of Pieces of Her will be on Netflix from Friday.

Updated: March 02, 2022, 4:10 AM
Pieces of Her

Stars: Toni Collette, Bella Heathcote, David Wenham, Omari Hardwick  

Director: Minkie Spiro

Rating:2/5

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