Release date: July 2018
Review, short version: Thumbs up for the movie, thumbs down for the ending.
Review, long version:
I’m not sure why I wanted to see Puzzle.
I’d barely heard about it when it was released, and I’d never heard of the people in it: Kelly MacDonald, Irrfan Khan and David Denman.
It must have been one of the trailers leading into a DVD I was about to watch, and when I saw that jigsaw puzzles were what the title was referring to…
And jigsaw puzzle contests were an important element of the film?
But…there was something about that woman that tugged at my heart, just in that brief trailer.
She continued to tug at my heart all the way through the movie.
“She” was Agnes, played by Kelly MacDonald.
Agnes, wife of Louie and mother of almost-grown sons Ziggy and Gabe, has no life outside taking care of Louie, Ziggy and Gabe. Housework, laundry, making meals, followed by more housework, laundry and making meals.
In other words, she has no life.
Agnes doesn’t complain. In fact, she doesn’t express much emotion at all.
We come to Agnes’ birthday, and one of the gifts is a jigsaw puzzle. The gift is completely out of the context of Agnes’ life, and she puts away somewhere.
But one day, something prompts Agnes to open the jigsaw puzzle. She spreads its 1,000 pieces onto a table, and starts fitting it together.
Agnes completes the puzzle.
She discovers she enjoyed completing the puzzle.
She discovers something she enjoys, for herself, that has nothing to do with anything except her.
And she discovers – she good at jigsaw puzzles.
Agnes is about to go on a journey that will change her life.
One scene that particularly touched me takes place as Easter approaches. Agnes is at home, sitting at the table, dyeing Easter eggs, and crying.
And I thought, “She’s dying and crying.”
And she was – weary of her monotonous life in which she’s totally taken for granted. She’s the meal maker and the housekeeper and the errand doer, a fixture like the fridge and the TV and the toilet.
Agnes allows the satisfaction she gets from mastering jigsaw puzzles to take her on that journey, and it will include deception, jubilation, and – horrors! – forgetting to make dinner because she’s engrossed in a puzzle.
Or rather – two puzzles…
One is the jigsaw in front of her.
And one is – where her journey will take her.
So – thumbs up for Puzzle, except…
Thumbs down for the ending, because it’s ambiguous.
And I like stories that are neatly resolved and wrapped up, all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed.
But life isn’t like that, and neither is Puzzle.
Or, as the reviewer at rogerebert.com put it,
“Puzzle wisely doesn’t complete the whole picture in easy or obvious ways, but rather gives us the space to consider the solutions for ourselves.”