The Movie Waffler Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018 Review - PUZZLE | The Movie Waffler

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Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018 Review - PUZZLE

puzzle movie review
Jigsaw puzzles provide a housewife with a new lease of life.







Review by Blair MacBride

Directed by: Marc Turtletaub

Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Irrfan Khan, David Denman, Austin Abrams, Bubba Weiler

puzzle movie poster

"Life is random; nothing will change this, not family, not work, not even love. But when you complete a puzzle, it brings order to the chaos."

Kick-starting the 72nd edition of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Marc Turtletaub’s Puzzle featured as the opening night film of the fest. The movie stars one of Scotland’s finest in Kelly Macdonald as she plays Agnes, a suburban wife and mother who discovers a new lease of life through solving jigsaw puzzles.

puzzle movie

Agnes is the doting wife to Louie (David Denman), who is an old-school type man - and not in a good way. Owning a garage and being the sole ‘breadwinner’ for his family is Louie’s persona all over. His view that keeping constant domestic fluidity is Agnes’ responsibility alone really hits home as it gives the impression that their relationship is far from a marriage and more of a master/servant arrangement peppered with affection. Indeed, as a by-product of her timid yet loving nature, Agnes also does everything in her power to keep her two boys happy. Gabe (Austin Abrams) and Ziggy (Bubba Weiler) do appreciate their Mum, but like their close-minded father, they fail to show it enough: Ziggy is the more caring of the two and empathises with his mother’s situation of feeling trapped in a life that, in truth, isn’t for her.

Everything begins to change for Agnes, though, when a puzzle gifted to her for her birthday becomes her new centre of attention. As she gets better and faster at solving jigsaws, a new opportunity arises to compete in Puzzle competitions with her new puzzle partner Robert (Irrfan Khan), and as time progresses, Agnes begins to slowly but surely find herself in such a vividly endearing manner.

puzzle movie

Macdonald shines in this feature’s leading role. Character study films can really test an audience’s patience - if it’s a solid protagonist with an engaging script, you’re more or less sorted. If, however, it proves to be the opposite, you’re stuck watching a really frustrating character biopic for the sake of simply finding out what happens in the end. Puzzle certainly doesn’t take the style of the latter. The film’s bizarre plot works surprisingly well as Macdonald’s Agnes goes from a quietly reticent pushover to a genuinely strong-minded individual who finally sticks up for herself, and boy is it satisfying to watch. For a character who could’ve been so familiar and so ordinary, the fact that Macdonald manages to engage with a variety of Agnes’ personality traits all at once allows for a genuine degree of compassion for the character.

On that note, the script does have a lot going for it with the love triangle among Agnes, Louie and Robert providing some harsh realities and consequences of human interaction; with Louie and Agnes, they clearly still have a form of love for each other but their difference of personalities engineers an easy route to the characters growing apart. As for Agnes’ new-found board-game partner, the sheer suddenness of Robert’s infatuation with Agnes adds a twist to the jigsaw-puzzle solving tale (even if it is foreseeable from the moment they first meet). That said, the will-they-won’t-they kind of romantic relationship they foster delivers some honestly enjoyable humour.

puzzle movie

As a fresh take on the Argentinian novel of the same name, Puzzle elegantly succeeds at expressing a beautiful story of self-realisation. Although the movie is predictable in places and occasionally suffers from pacing issues, the film’s illustration of human nature is starkly relatable and satisfyingly striking.


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