Starring: Kelly McDonald, Irrfan Khan, David Denman
Director: Marc Turtletaub
Running Time: 103 mins
Puzzle is an American film about a reserved housewife who, upon discovering a love and talent for jigsaw puzzles, begins to come out of her shell.
Slow and quiet it may be, but Puzzle is a film that really packs a punch once it builds itself up. Featuring impressive performances from Kelly McDonald and Irrfan Khan, the film is a touching and eye-opening view into a sheltered life and the beauty of discovering the wider world.
On the surface, the story might not seem immensely remarkable. It’s an understated tale of a housewife who lives a reserved and repetitive lifestyle, yet doesn’t seek anything grander in the world. However, when she discovers the joy of jigsaw puzzles, and meets a man who shares her passion, her view on life begins to change forever.
In that, there’s a touching and inspiring view on a woman who, even when seeming content with her lot in life, finds a new calling. In that role, Kelly McDonald is wonderful, subtly marking the transition from reserved housewife to a more assured and confident individual, while still retaining all the wonderful characteristics she had in the first place.
It would have been very easy for this film to take a more dramatic direction here, not only showing a housewife coming out of her shell, but bringing in wider themes of a fight against repression that would have likely seen her turn her back on those she felt neglected by in her life.
However, Puzzle is a far more down-to-earth film than that, and while there is certainly a shift in the power of the household, McDonald’s character never seeks revenge, but only seeks to be treated how she feels she deserves to be, a wonderfully measured and inspiring message of the film.
Meanwhile, her fledgling relationship with Irrfan Khan, who begins to help her appreciate the wider world all the more, is equally wonderful. Whether or not the romantic side of their bond ends up a success, what McDonald’s character gains from her time with Khan is invaluable, while the time they share breathes fresh air into his own life.
As ever, Irrfan Khan is incredible in a powerfully understated performance that manages to bring far more thought-provoking drama to the table than you’d ever expect at first. His chemistry with McDonald is wonderful, and the pair are able to work together while avoiding a more generic romantic or mentor-mentee dynamic too.
In short, Puzzle is a really wonderful film that offers up engrossing, thought-provoking and touching drama fully grounded in reality. It’s inspiring at times, and with a slow and quiet style throughout, it affords you a lot of time to think and ponder on the themes it brings up. Bolstered by two wonderful lead performances, it’s an undeniably captivating watch, which is why I’m giving it a 7.6 overall.