"Solving the Puzzle of Life"
What You Need To Know:
PUZZLE isn’t about the strange world of jigsaw competitions. Instead, its title becomes more of a metaphor for the complexities people must sift through to find purpose in life. Robert is fatalistic and thinks everything is random. Agnes fights against the morals of her Catholic faith. Meanwhile, her husband wonders what’s with Agnes. PUZZLE is well acted and enjoyable. The movie’s main theme is finding your purpose with or without God. Also, immoral means are accepted as a possible way to find one’s purpose. So, PUZZLE has significant worldview problems.
In PUZZLE, a Catholic wife and mother of two breaks out of her housewife role when she discovers she’s good at completing jigsaw puzzles, but this leads to having an adulterous fling with a professional jigsaw competitor before she returns to her family. Though PUZZLE is well acted and enjoyable, the main theme is finding your purpose in life with or without faith in God, and immoral means are used in part to get there, so it has some significant worldview problems.
Agnes is a Catholic wife and mother of two college-age boys in her early 40s, celebrating another birthday in her drably decorated Connecticut home. While it’s apparent her family loves and appreciates her, they don’t give much thought to her everyday life beyond her role as a housewife. Her husband, Louie, is the semi-successful owner of a garage where one of their sons works. He wants to keep the business in the family, but doesn’t realize their son wants to go a different direction in life. In the same way, he doesn’t recognize Agnes is suffering in silence at home during the day, where she wishes there were more to her existence than just making sure her husband has hot meals and a clean house.
Bored and alone one afternoon, Agnes discovers a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle among all her birthday gifts. She quickly puts it together twice before Louie gets home. The puzzle intrigues her and engages her mind, giving her a new lease on life. She travels to a specialty shop in New York City in search of more jigsaw puzzles. There, she finds an ad for a puzzle champion seeking a partner. After testing her talent with a few more puzzles, she hesitantly texts the number from the ad and gets an invitation to meet in New York City.
Agnes lies to her husband about where she’s going, worried that if he knew she was meeting with a stranger about jigsaw puzzles, he’d not allow it. Arriving in New York, she meets Robert, a rich Iranian-American inventor turned puzzle champion. He instantly picks up on Agnes’ shyness and does his best to draw her out of her shell.
As they spend more time together, Robert lets Agnes know he’s developed feelings for her. This tempts Agnes into an adulterous affair. The decision to turn her back on her Catholic faith and morality is agonizing yet freeing for her. She struggles about whether to reveal everything to her family, fearing she’ll be forced back into her boring existence or possibly lose what she holds most dear.
Anyone going into PUZZLE thinking they’ll get a dose of this strange world of jigsaw competitions will be sorely disappointed. At first glance, it seems to be about a woman who introduces some zest into her boring life by way of this genius talent she uncovers. However, it soon becomes apparent that the title is more of a metaphor for the complexities of life people must sort through in order to find their purpose. While there are scenes about the jigsaw competition, they’re vastly overshadowed by all the personal drama. Also, it’s hard to accept Agnes and Robert as a compatible couple, because there really isn’t much onscreen chemistry between the two actors.
At first, Agnes approaches life from her Catholic, religious worldview, while Robert is rather fatalistic about reality. For example, he declares that life is random and people have no control over anything, so jigsaw puzzles are one way to apply some order to all the chaos. Agnes fights against the morals of her Catholic faith and eventually decides to embrace her own desires in order to break out of her shell. However, instead of the movie portraying her family as dysfunctional, her husband comes across as a loving person, though lacking some insight and sensitivity into his wife’s private life and feelings. Agnes ultimately chooses to be honest with her family and returns to them. So, her Christian faith wins out in the end. However, the movie applies an asterisk to her journey, because Agnes still hasn’t completely solved the puzzle concerning what life really means for her.
PUZZLE is admittedly well acted (especially by Kelly Macdonald as Agnes), and the story is reasonably enjoyable and well presented. The movie’s main theme is finding your purpose in life with or without faith in God. Also, immoral means are used in part to try to find that purpose. So, PUZZLE ultimately has some significant worldview problems, despite some Christian content. PUZZLE also has some R-rated foul language.