Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
Puzzle Movie Poster Image
Lovely personal empowerment story has some language.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 103 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Strong theme of empowerment -- about discovering you're capable of more than you thought you were and following your dream, no matter how unusual it might seem to others. It's OK to want more than what you have. Also, it's about the difficult steps toward long-denied personal growth.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Agnes has never tried to look outside her tight societal niche but abruptly discovers she is capable of more and wants more. She wrestles with guilt and the consequences of her growth; she's selfless at heart but faces a deep and painful awakening. Her desires and actions are portrayed understandably and sympathetically. One of her sons is experiencing something similar at a younger age; his personal struggle inspires hers. The male puzzle master is an Indian man whose brilliance, quirks, and attractiveness -- not his nationality or race -- define him. Louie is very afraid of change.


Confrontations and arguments.


The run-up to and aftermath of an extramarital sexual encounter are shown (no nudity); passing mention of the quality of the sex. A married couple is shown cuddling in bed. Kissing.


A few uses of "f--k" (more out of frustration than as sexual references), plus "Jesus" (as an exclamation).


Puzzle brands.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A man comes home drunk. Smoking is shown but frowned upon. Social drinking at a birthday party.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bylaurathepoet November 24, 2018

Coming of age in your 40s

I thought this was a sweet systo with a main character who isn't always acting ethically, but nevertheless wins us over as she tries to figure out what she... Continue reading
Adult Written bySunnyCaifornia August 24, 2018

Irritating main character, although very well acted

There is much made of the main female character being Catholic. She identifies as a church lady. She also identifies as a good mother and wife. We initially s... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

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 RompecabezasPuzzle 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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate