Since making her big-screen debut 20-old years ago in Trainspotting, the Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald has made a specialty of stealing movies in supporting roles. She was devastating as the trusting wife in No Country for Old Men and perfectly cast as the stoic domestic goddess Dolly in Joe Wright’s dreamy adaptation of Anna Karenina.
In Puzzle, Macdonald has finally found a movie that she doesn’t need to steal, because it belongs to her completely. As Agnes, a Connecticut homemaker longing to break out of a comfortable but humdrum existence, Macdonald brings her characteristic quiet radiance to bear on creating a character who’s either on the brink of crisis or of rebirth, depending on how she makes the pieces fit.
Director Marc Turtletaub, working from a script by Polly Mann and Oren Moverman, engages in another clever misdirect. Rather than a conventional underdogs-in-competition drama, Puzzle underplays the familiar tropes of stopwatches and we-can-do-this speeches. Instead, Turtletaub and Macdonald create a delicate, affecting portrait of a woman finally expressing long-repressed dissatisfaction and desire – or, to borrow the symbolic language of a film that pointedly takes place during Lent, a woman resurrecting a long-buried self.
Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post