Review: Macdonald solves excellent 'Puzzle'

As a housewife who finds excitement through puzzling, Kelly Macdonald gives a dazzling, heartbreaking performance in this unassuming drama

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Kelly Macdonald in "Puzzle."

Kelly Macdonald gets a chance to shine, and boy does she ever, in "Puzzle," a low-key character drama about a lonely housewife who finds who finds excitement amid the day-to-day monotony of her life.   

Macdonald is Agnes, who's doing laundry and cooking meals when she's not attending church functions. She's so unassuming she doesn't even have use for an iPhone. 

She's married to Louie (David Denman), a good man who has long let the passion in their relationship run stagnant. Agnes can predict his snoring patterns with pinpoint accuracy.

The one thing that gives her a thrill is completing jigsaw puzzles, which she can do with freakish speed. On a whim she answers an ad from a fellow puzzler (Irrfan Khan) looking for a partner for an upcoming puzzling tournament, and she begins meeting with him for secret practice sessions in the city. 

"Puzzle" sounds like it could fall into Diane Lane territory, a cheesy melodrama about a bored middle age woman, but that's not the route it travels. Director Marc Turtletaub handles the story with a delicate, human touch and keeps it from veering soapy or sappy, which it could easily. 

"Puzzle" is truly a showcase for Macdonald, who doesn't get enough of those, and she is luminous. In the opening frames of the movie she conveys everything you need to know about the heartache inside her character in just a series of glances, and her slow awakening over the course of the film makes for hands down one of the year's finest performances.

Denman, too, gives his character unexpected layers, and Khan is superb as the wild card in Agnes' life. Turtletaub's direction and the trio of ace performances make "Puzzle" feel relatable and real; it's one of those movies where everything truly comes together.




Rated R: for language

Running time: 103 minutes