by Martina Hysi
Puzzle made me cry. Three times. But that is not necessarily a testament of the quality of this production which, without a doubt, lies in its story. A unique, yet commonplace story - a vibrant contradiction that is absolutely enthralling. I can’t remember the last time I saw a film that was not particularly fast-paced, but still unbelievably gripping.
Everything is shot in a mute-colored palette, so that in close-ups the characters’ faces seem to be outlined by light, like a halo. The faces crowding the screen come to life as they speak, in their silence, or in the evanescent moments of true clarity before the onset of a terrifying responsibility.
Puzzle follows Kelly MacDonald as Agnes, a middle-aged housewife with two teenage sons, living in the outskirts of New York City with her husband, Louie (David Denman). Louie means well, even though their years of cohabitation have given rise to a complex brand of vague psychological abuse.
Yet Agnes does not rebel against this per se. She does not choose to act behind her family’s back, starting a career as an international puzzle solver, to finally show Louie who’s the boss. Instead, her story is about doing something, even small, for herself. Agnes is not here to sell us the vindictive archetype: she is here to take us with her as she understands what she wants and who she really is.
Robert (Irrfan Khan), Agnes’ puzzle partner, reflects on how in life’s unpredictable chaos, the choices we make are often the wrong ones; solving a puzzle means being able, for once, to make all the right choices. It is a moving thought: the human need to make all the right moves, the human incapability to execute them. An eternal struggle, brilliantly laid out for us in this beautiful film.