Over the past few years, the gender roles in society have changed and with the #MeToo movement, we are seeing a watershed moment, where women say no more to being put on a level below their male counterparts. It is that defiance and forward thinking in Puzzle that makes it such a great film. It also happens to be a much needed rising from the ashes for actor Kelly Macdonald. The star of films such as Trainspotting and No Country For Old Men, has an interesting connection to her character Agnes. Her performance is beautiful, breaking away the chains that have held back as an actor of her caliber, and at the same time, reveals a side that Agnes that was dying to get out. Her character has never stood up for herself, but as she begins to break away from the constraints of her gender role, Puzzle becomes a beautiful display of someone finding their voice. And she finds it in competitive puzzling with a brilliant man named Robert (Irrfan Kahn).
I won't sugar coat a film like Puzzle. This is not a flashy movie to see, you can get your thrills from Mission: Impossible- Fallout. However, this is a different story, something audiences rarely ever see. Director Marc Turtletaub, who has spent a majority of his career producing films such as Loving and Little Miss Sunshine, takes a gentle approach to the material. Screenwriters Oren Moverman and Polly Mann show subtle changes for Agnes in each scene, whether she's learning to use her iPhone for the first time or delivering a bright smile at the finish of a puzzle. Although Agnes is making decisions that send husband Louie (Denman), and son's Ziggy (Bubba Weiler) and Gabe (Austin Abrams) into uncomfortable waters, it is her warmth and passion that prove she deserves it. There are no villains in Puzzle.
Later on, the relationship between Robert (Kahn) and Agnes blossoms, not out of the erotic interest of an affair, but more out of the natural path that two beautiful adults would follow. Turtletaub is interested in our characters growth, and does very little focusing on actual puzzle making. In fact, as the two prepare for to the big puzzle competition, it's not a build up to the clichéd victory for the underdog. The success is made when Agnes steps out the door. When she takes the train to upstate New York or just kisses someone out of pure passion. We fall in love with her because through conversations, her brilliant ability to put a puzzle together like lightening, and her courageous steps to freedom reveal a person we all hope we could be some day. Seek out Puzzle. It's a piece of cinema that you need to see.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady
STARRING: KELLY MACDONALD; IRRFAN KAHN; DAVID DENMAN; AUSTIN ABRAMS
DIRECTED BY: MARC TURTLETAUB
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
They have no connection, but I'd say that Puzzle makes the perfect follow-up feature to Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird. The independent film from director Marc Turtletaub is not a flashy production, but a concrete narrative, about a woman in her forties, muscling up the courage to step out of her mundane life. Kelly Macdonald stars as Agnes, a mother of two, living in upstate New York, in a catholic community, with her mechanic husband Louie (David Denman), who always expects a home cooked meal waiting for him on the dinner table. Those old-fashioned ways don't work anymore, as this is a movie about a woman changing the way things are done for herself, proving that a coming-of-age dramas can happen at all points of life. Puzzle is perfect when all the pieces are put together.