Netflix’s ‘Pieces of Her’ explores a mother and daughter’s evolving relationship after the latter begins uncovering her parents’ violent history. The show opens with Andy, after watching her mother, Laura, effortlessly slit a man’s throat, beginning to wonder how well she knows the latter. As the narrative progresses, we learn about Laura’s explosive past and how it still endangers the mother and daughter’s life in the present.
We also get glimpses of another battle that Laura fights, this time with a life-threatening affliction, with her dutiful daughter by her side. There are not too many details, but it is a significant factor in understanding the show’s central pair and their dynamic. So what is ailing Toni Collett’s character Laura Oliver in ‘Pieces of Her’? Is it breast cancer? Here are all the details to help you pick up on the Netflix show’s nuances. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Does Toni Collette’s Laura Oliver Have Breast Cancer?
The story opens with Andy celebrating her thirtieth birthday, and it soon becomes clear that she still lives with her mother in a picturesque small Georgia town called Belle Isle. Through messages from an unseen friend asking when she’s coming back to New York and her mother’s gentle hints that perhaps it is time to leave the nest, it becomes clear Andy isn’t keen to leave Belle Isle or her mother’s side. Of course, this makes her subsequent forced departure all the more dramatic.
It is only much later in the narrative that we get the complete picture, and it is revealed that Andy moved back to Belle Isle to help her mother while the latter underwent treatment for breast cancer. In addition to the significant trauma Laura faces as a young woman (named Jane), she is also a cancer survivor. From Andy’s appearance in the flashbacks, where we see an emaciated Laura undergoing chemotherapy, it seems that her ailment wasn’t too long ago and that the mother might still be recovering. This further adds heft to Laura’s seemingly unstoppable, one-woman-army character.
In case you were wondering, Toni Collette, who essays Laura Oliver on the show, fortunately, doesn’t seem to have had to battle cancer herself and the show’s narrative is not reflective of real life. Notably, however, Colette acted in the 2015 drama ‘Miss You Already’ with Drew Barrymore, in which the former’s character (Milly) is afflicted with breast cancer. The Australian actress also supported Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 2014 and has been involved in a wide array of humanitarian efforts.
Thus, the scene from ‘Pieces of Her’ in which we get a very graphic depiction of the effects of breast cancer on Collette’s character Laura is seemingly the result of special effects and makeup. The detail about Laura being a cancer survivor, which is also in Karin Slaughter’s novel of the same name on which the series is based, adds further complexity to the character arcs of the mother and daughter.
It shows us the caring connection between the two as well as provides a very plausible reason for Andy to leave her life in New York and return to the small town of Belle Isle. Most significantly, it digs deeper into Laura’s character, further stressing just how tumultuous her life has been and how unstoppable she is.