A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Puzzle is a drama about a middle-aged, underappreciated, suburban housewife (Kelly Macdonald) who finally comes into her own when she discovers she has a talent for jigsaw puzzles. Characters argue, but there's no violence; the iffiest content is the language, which includes a few uses of "f--k." There's also some smoking, a scene in which someone is drunk, some kissing, and non-explicit sexual encounters between adults. While the title may imply a mystery, this is a gentle empowerment film about unlocking long-suppressed desires and growing as a person.
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What's the story?
In PUZZLE, underappreciated suburban housewife and mother Agnes (Kelly Macdonald) discovers she has a talent for assembling jigsaw puzzles. While her life with her small-minded husband, Louie (David Denman), and their sons -- spoiled Gabe (Austin Abrams) and troubled Ziggy (Bubba Weiler) -- isn't exactly hellish, she comes to realize that it's very, very stifling. Agnes' exciting but painful growth is accelerated when she partners with a brilliant, quirky, worldly puzzle champion named Robert (Irrfan Khan), who's nothing like her on the surface but understands her as no one else does.
Is it any good?
This is a beautiful, nuanced film with remarkable performances. It's a drama, but it's lively -- and handled with a gentle, light touch that allows for plenty of laughs of recognition. Based on the 2010 Argentine film Rompecabezas, Puzzle generates conflict and tension without actual villains. Macdonald turns in wonderful, sympathetic work as a woman who had barely dared to dream beyond the borders of her small town before realizing there was so much more for her in the world. She makes Agnes bloom before our eyes; it's some of the best work of her career. Khan also shines as the puzzle master with a complex internal life; he's not a one-dimensional cliché, but rather a thinking, feeling person with damage of his own. It's hard to convincingly convey a brilliant mind; Khan does it with panache. And young Weiler is a find as the son who's withering in the life he's been shoehorned into.
Director Marc Turtletaub (known as a producer of such films as Little Miss Sunshine) lets the movie's moments breathe and captures the full interactions between his characters. His handling of the sensitive script, adapted by indie powerhouse Owen Moverman, finds subtle ways to reveal character and exposition. The film's low-key realism makes the rare moments of direct conflict or important decisions all the more consequential. Puzzle is a lovely tale of empowerment fueled by two excellent lead performances.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the central relationship in Puzzle. What draws Agnes and Robert together? What do they have in common? How are they different?
Would you describe Agnes' husband as a "villain"? Or is he something more nuanced? Is he a "bad" person or someone with blind spots, a product of his culture?
How would you describe the role of religion in the film's world?