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New movie Pieces of a Woman is a story of forgiveness… so why is Netflix so keen to cancel its star, Shia LaBeouf?

Instead of practising what its latest movie preaches, Netflix has purged Shia LaBeouf from its promotional material over accusations of abusive behavior. Cancel culture has triumphed over compassion and common-sense again.

Pieces of a Woman, the new arthouse film starring Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf that is garnering some Oscar buzz, premiered on Netflix on January 7. 

The film, written by Kata Wéber and directed by Kornél Mundruczó tells the story of a Boston couple who suffer a traumatic home birth of their daughter.

 

The film’s theme is the power of forgiveness, even for the most egregious of injuries. This would seem a prescient and poignant lesson in our current age of relentless cancel culture and shameless embrace of victimhood. Unfortunately, while that is a theme we need right now, this muddled misfire of a movie is not an adequate delivery system.

Pieces of a Woman starts off spectacularly, with a masterfully executed, compelling and captivating opening 30 minutes. But after that it quickly deteriorates into a maudlin, melodramatic exercise chock full of every dramatic cliché imaginable.

On the bright side, the film is an actor’s showcase and the luminous Vanessa Kirby makes the very most of the opportunity. Kirby, best known for her work on Netflix’s The Crown, gloriously transcends the mundane script and middling direction by giving a subtle, specific, dynamic and magnetic performance as the grieving yet resilient Martha. 

Netflix is pushing for Kirby, already a Best Actress winner at the Venice Film Festival, to get a much-deserved Oscar nomination.

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Netflix is also promoting the rest of the cast to get awards consideration… well, almost all of the rest of the cast. Every cast member is featured on Netflix’s ‘For Your Awards Consideration’ webpage, except for Shia LaBeouf.

Why has LaBeouf, the main supporting actor in the movie who some critics – not me – claim is “remarkable,” been excluded from Netflix’s awards consideration material?

The answer is that LaBeouf’s former girlfriend, singer FKA Twigs, filed suit against him in December of 2020 for past sexual, physical and emotional abuse. In the wake of this lawsuit other women, including singer Sia, have come forward making varying claims of mistreatment.

In response, LaBeouf wrote to the New York Times, “I’m not in any position to tell anyone how my behavior made them feel. I have no excuses for my alcoholism or aggression, only rationalizations. I have been abusive to myself and everyone around me for years… I have a history of hurting the people closest to me. I’m ashamed of that history and am sorry to those I hurt.”

He later stated that many of the allegations were not true but that he owed the women “the opportunity to air their statements publicly and accept accountability for those things I have done.”

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He added that he was “a sober member of a 12-step program” and in therapy. “I am not cured of my PTSD and alcoholism, but I am committed to doing what I need to do to recover, and I will forever be sorry to the people that I may have harmed along the way.”

So, in a surreal twist, LaBeouf’s character in Pieces of a Woman is an at-times abusive alcoholic and in real life the actor is now accused of being an abusive alcoholic.

This is obviously a complex situation, one that requires a foregoing of our culture’s compulsive and muscular Manichaeism. But it would seem Netflix has not absorbed the nuanced message of forgiveness highlighted in Pieces of a Woman and are, ironically, purging LaBeouf from promotional material for a film about the power of radical forgiveness.

LaBeouf is not alone in being tossed into the memory hole by Netflix over allegations of past misdeeds. Johnny Depp recently lost a libel case against the Sun, which he sued for calling him a “wife beater.” In response, Netflix removed all of Depp’s films from its service.

It’s important to note that neither LaBeouf nor Depp have been proven to have committed any crime, they’ve only been accused. And yet Netflix didn’t hesitate to swiftly punish them anyway.

It’s also curious that Depp’s former wife and alleged victim, Amber Heard, has also been accused of abuse (by Depp) but has faced no public consequences from Netflix or anyone else.

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Another indicator of our culture’s victimhood bias is in nearly every internet article I’ve read detailing FKA Twigs’ lawsuit against LaBeouf and Netflix’s punitive actions, there was a notice informing readers of specific resources available to them if they ever “experience domestic violence.”

This is a commendable public service, but it’s striking that despite these articles also referencing LaBeouf’s alcoholism and mental health issues, none of them ever direct readers suffering from those conditions to equally helpful resources.

The reality is that these notices and Netflix’s punitive disappearing of LaBeouf and Depp are simply exercises in virtue signaling and pandering to the online outrage mob.

LaBeouf and Depp may be terrible people who’ve done terrible things, but dispensing punishment and condemnation before accusations are proven is unwise and unhealthy. Even after findings of guilt, we should attempt the difficult but imperative task of foregoing vengeance and victimhood in favor of cultivating repentance and forgiveness, which would have longer lasting effects and be a path to a more decent, kind and compassionate culture.

In conclusion, Pieces of a Woman doesn’t live up to the stellar work Vanessa Kirby does in it, just like Netflix doesn’t live up to the enlightened principle of forgiveness at the heart of the film.

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