Helmsman Marc Turtletaub has a nice vehicle for Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald (T2 Trainspotting, Nanny McPhee, No Country For Old Men, among her many supporting credits) whose Agnes becomes less withdrawn and subservient after finding a knack to assemble 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles.
Puzzle (set in Bridgeport, Connecticut, though filmed in Yonkers, New York) also features David Denman and Irrfan Khan and has a delicate, understated touch to it like Macdonald’s effective turn without truly being inspired. Technophobe and hardly traveled (except for summers at the lake) Agnes has been weighed down (or hemmed in) by housework for her two grown sons Gabe (Austin Abrams) and culinary-aspiring Ziggy (Bubba Weiler) and grease monkey stout hubby Louie (Denman). The religious-minded early middle-ager gives thanks before meals and puts the needs of others ahead of her own.
Upon meeting Indian-American Robert (Khan) financially benefiting from his way with magnets after her birthday party (without any assistance) and finding her way by train from her working-class neighborhood to a Manhattan specialty store there’s a transition from her interlocking gifts (as when Louie accidentally shatters a plate). It includes her applying herself towards a jigsaw competition with cheerless Robert whose wife had left him. You can guess where these kindred, sheltered souls may be headed.
Denham in some ways mitigates a chauvinistic stereotype with benevolence given the fact of his abiding of her prevarication of being away for days tending to a disabled aunt. But, Macdonald is up to the task (as a headliner) of the typical housewife who goes rogue, or finds liberation through a man who corresponds well with her situation. And, Khan (The Lunchbox, Slumdog Millionaire) effortlessly fits in to the sweet point-of-view of blossoming into the real world as an absorbingly enough portrait. One which is epitomized by Matthew Shifrin’s version of Ave Maria.