Even in her endless stream of supporting roles, you’ve noticed Kelly Macdonald: salty about Josh Brolin’s comings and goings in ‘No Country for Old Men’, a quick study of class warfare in ‘Gosford Park’. We should celebrate her ascent – finally – to a starring vehicle of her own in ‘Puzzle’, a film in which she plays Agnes, a married New Jersey suburbanite who blooms into defiance via an interest in competitive jigsaw-puzzle solving. Still, reread that last sentence and you’ll know that this isn’t quite Macdonald’s moment. Watching people do jigsaw puzzles is only slightly more interesting than watching beige paint dry, and even though the plot throws Agnes together with a flirty fellow obsessive (Irrfan Khan), it lacks both the spark and the fuel of the feisty rom-com that might have been.
Like the coy 2009 Argentine film of which it’s a remake, ‘Puzzle’ casts an empathetic gaze on the inner life of a housewife, making it worth championing regardless of how much it feels like an underwritten short story. More interestingly, screenwriters Polly Mann and Oren Moverman italicise Agnes’s religiosity – her charity within the community as well as the traditional role she plays in her household – lending her rebellion an almost heretical tinge. She begins reading the news and getting uppity with her lump of a hubby, a provider who’s mystified and hurt by her transformation – David Denman has the most complex role. It’s too bad that ‘Puzzle’ drops this faith angle when it’s convenient; Agnes’s interior journey towards a sense of self needn’t have precluded a higher power, the maker of all the puzzles.