PUZZLE — Review by Martha K. Baker

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Puzzle is aptly named for a game and a dilemma. Puzzles are what children do to learn eye/hand coordination. But when Agnes receives a puzzle for her birthday, she is drawn to it like filings to magnet. She is a housewife for a festering man child, who works in a garage and expects his dinner on the table. Imagine his surprise when he finds a puzzle on it instead.

Agnes takes to puzzle pounding with genius ease. She is so drawn to that puzzle that she calls the giver to find the store. That means she has to explore Manhattan, an exotic and scary thought, but she does it. She also answers an ad placed on the bulletin board by a man looking for a puzzling partner, and that’s how she finds out about puzzling competitions.

Even more exotic than Manhattan is this man, Robert. He lives in uncluttered luxury, even his brick walls are opalescent. He immediately notes Agnes’ quickness, her focus, her smallness and courts her, this naif entering his foreign world. She is much better at finding the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle than of her life, but she does begin to realize a few things under Robert’s hands-on tutelage. Best of all, she sticks to her own style of puzzling.

Kelly Macdonald plays Agnes with all the fine intelligence she’s brought to roles in Goodbye, Christopher Robin and the transcendent The Girl in the Café. She assumes the role of Agnes and wears it with panache. The well-known Indian actor Irrfan Khan, so good in The Lunchbox and The Life of Pi, makes Robert romantic. David Denman deserves credit for making Agnes’ husband interesting beyond the cliché.

Dustin O’Halloran’s music supports the film brilliantly, and Chris Noor’s cinematography, especially in Grand Central Station, addresses the exotic. Polly Mann and the actor Oren Moverman wrote the script based on a 2009 Argentinian film. Each crew member serves as able lieutenant to director Marc Turtletaub, who also directed Loving.

Puzzle although slow, is a beautiful and significant puzzle of its own.

I’m Martha K. Baker. From the Grand Center Arts District, this is 88.1 KDHX, St. Louis.

motw logo 1-35EDITOR’S NOTE: Puzzle is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for July 27, 2018.

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Martha K. Baker

I first taught film at Lakeland College in Wisconsin in 1969 and became a professional film reviewer in 1976 in St. Louis, Mo. Through the years, I have reviewed films for the St. Louis Business Journal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Episcopal Life, and KWMU (NPR), among other outlets. I've reviewed at KDHX radio, my current outlet, for nearly 20 years.