Pieces of Her, a new thriller starring Toni Collette and Bella Heathcote, premiered on Netflix NFLX -1% on March 4. Based on Karin Slaughter’s 2018 novel, Pieces of Her is an eight-part series adaptation about a mother-daughter relationship and the secrets we keep from those closest to us.
Pieces of Her follows 30-year-old Andy Oliver (played by Bella Heathcote), who finds herself caught in a deadly mass shooting in a local diner. The random act of violence will set off an unexpected chain of events for Andy and her mother Laura (played by Toni Collette). As Andy is forced to flee her small Georgia town, she embarks on a journey to find the truth about her mother and her family.
Pieces of Her is an even-paced series adaptation created by Charlotte Stoudt, held together by a great duo of performers, Collette and Heathcote, as mother and daughter. Despite a frustrating lead character, this thriller sustains its central mystery in effective ways and offers great plot twists.
The series begins with quite the attention-grabbing scene. While Laura, a speech therapist, and Andy, an insecure 911 police dispatcher, are out for lunch, the diner is attacked by a crazy young man who begins by shooting his ex-girlfriend and her mother before turning to the rest of the patrons. Fearing for her daughter’s life, Laura manages to stop him with self-defence moves. Caught on camera, Laura becomes quite the media sensation. Laura’s deftly moves leaves Andy with many questions. But when her mother tells her to flee with a precise itinerary to follow, Andy is left wondering who her mother truly is. It turns out she does not know her mother at all.
At its core, this is a story about a relationship between a mother and her daughter. As the series begins, Andy is turning 30 and feels that she still hasn’t figured her life out. After returning home to care for her mother, she has remained in her small hometown. Andy is portrayed as a naive young woman, who hasn’t quite grown out of her teenage ways, still rebellious towards her mother. When Laura instructs her to flee, Andy does not quite follow through, largely because she ends up telling a complete stranger where she is heading. In a strange way, this thriller feels like a coming-of-age drama for Andy’s character. Andy’s journey into finding the truth about her mother’s past is her own coming-of-age journey into adulthood.
Laura’s character is more complex and is the point from which the whole mystery of this thriller pivots. Through flashback glimpses of Laura’s past as a young woman (played by Jessica Barden), the series slowly reveals who Laura truly is and what she has been hiding from her daughter. Her past is portrayed as fraught with overbearing male figures—first her possessive father (played by Terry O’Quinn), then the charismatic leader of an anarchist group, named Nick Harp (played by Joe Dempsie). The series reveals Laura’s past bit by bit, as Andy is discovering everything, the full picture of which is only truly complete with the very last few minutes of the entire series.
While mother and daughter spend much of the series apart, it is very much their relationship that is at play here. It is the few moments Andy and Laura are together that are most poignant in the episodes. Collette and Heathcote perfectly capture the complex relationship the mother and daughter have, further complicated by what Andy discovers about her mother’s past. Toni Collette’s performance as a woman with a tortured hidden past is particularly remarkable in this series. There is a strength in her character that feels unwavering and resolute. Andy’s insecurity and naivety, on the contrary, make her a frustrating character at first, but her growth into self-confidence is intriguing to watch.
Pieces of Her is an absorbing thriller with quite the mysterious hook to keep viewers immersed. The series has jumped to the second place of Netflix’s Top 10 Shows, a day after its release in the U.S.