(Note: This piece contains specific plot details about the new Netflix series Pieces Of Her.)
Toni Collette rules at playing a mother with terrifying secrets (see: Hereditary). She leads Netflix thriller Pieces Of Her, released on March 4, as Laura Oliver, a complicated woman with a labyrinthine past she’s kept hidden from her sullen 30-year-old daughter, Andy (Bella Heathcote). After a violent event, Andy slowly begins to unravel her mother’s gruesome history.
It’s safe to label the central mother-daughter duo as an awfully complex pair. Laura and Andy spend much of the show’s run on two different paths: Andy investigates her family legacy and Laura’s upbringing, while her mother confronts a trauma she buried over three decades ago. But the actors manage to establish an authentic, frayed bond between their characters in only a few key scenes and conversations—two of which eerily take place at a diner.
A tense verbal battle between them in the first episode is interrupted when a gunman opens fire during Andy’s birthday lunch. Before all hell breaks loose, Laura gently suggests to a reluctant Andy that it’s time for her to start a life of her own. Heathcote tells The A.V. Club that their attachment is so secure, only people with love between them can go at each other like that. “There’s an intimacy where they can criticize each other, there’s a level of comfort in their discomfort.”
Pieces Of Her wouldn’t land emotionally if Heathcote and Collette didn’t delve into Laura and Andy’s emotional connection. At its core, the show is still a family drama with an undercurrent of middling, predictable suspense.
As it turns out, Laura is actually Jane Queller, an ace piano player and daughter of a wealthy businessman, Martin (Terry O’Quinn). But Martin subjected his child to immense pressure from a young age. It caused her to rebel and join forces with Nick Harp, the leader of a cult named Army Of The Changing World. She’s also part of the witness protection program now because she helped the FBI capture most of the cult members, except Nick.
Naturally, this huge lie about her ancestry hits Andy like a ton of bricks. It also forever shifts her relationship with her mother. Collette tells The A.V. Club that with this story, they wanted to focus on how intergenerational trauma is inescapable: “We are literally living a lie. As much as Laura is trying to protect her kid, trauma gets passed down. It is in us, it seeps from us, we inherit it but don’t realize it until we’re overwhelmed. Humans are messy, and this story stems front and center from that mess.”
Heathcote adds that one of her favorite reveals from Pieces Of Her isn’t some dramatic plot twist, but the last conversation Laura and Andy have after the dust has settled between them in the finale. “They’re on equal ground. Finally,” Heathcote says. “The veil’s been lifted. It’s their first moment of adult connection. It’s painful—but painfully earned.”