We meet “Agnes”, saintly as her namesake, preparing for a birthday: decorating, cooking, cleaning, and it is not until she carries the cake into the dining room that we realize it is her birthday; she is loved, but unrecognized, a specter to her husband and sons; robotically skilled at the mundanities of housework, parenting and partnering. A thousand piece puzzle, a gift that slowly, methodically revolutionizes her life, with mathematical wizardry she’s unchained. Kelly Macdonald hypnotically portrays an isolated woman, unfrazzled by the day’s trivialities; a perpetual observer, watching from a sanctified distance; a sublime, incomprehensible autism informs her reasonings, reactions and responses. Macdonald’s performance is cataclysmically hypnotic.
Agnes ventures from her ghettoized parish in Bridgeport, Conn. to a puzzle shop in New York City where she responds to an ad for a “puzzle partner”; “Robert” glib, insouciant, mega-wealthy inventor (a sensual, charismatic Irrfan Khan) sees beyond her bland, staid exterior to the blistering, fathomless unmined resources at her core. Hence, “Puzzle” is a karmic connection between two disparate people, longing for lost chances, safety from the “chaos” informing the world; puzzles, like mathematics, are structured, predestined to be solved, no grey areas, straight forward, logical; escape from the loose ends, emotional messiness of familial discord, minutia constantly recycled, regurgitated, never fully purged, just different packaging.
Director Marc Turtletaub and writers Polly Mann and Oren Moverman have created a film for the seasoned and neophyte viewer; multi-layered, fascinating premises, where all the pieces meld perfectly.