The new film Puzzle, which stars Scottish actress Audra McDonald along with Irrfan Khan, is a slowly-unfolding gem. I say “slowly-unfolding” because I originally suggested to Sara, based on previews, that she and Ben should go see it. Sara is a great puzzler. After I saw the film, I had to text Sara and say “probably not”. The slow pace would drive her out of her gourd.
That said, this film is lovely. McDonald plays a very traditional Catholic mother of two young adult sons, both of whom live at home, one often accompanied by his Buddhist vegan girlfriend. McDonald’s husband is a garage mechanic, incurious about anything other than fishing, who expects supper on the table when he gets home and the same Easter tradition to roll out for this extended family — all the work done by his wife — every year.
Someone gives McDonald a 1000 piece puzzle as a birthday gift, and she sits down and does it in jig time — discovering an outlet for her innate intelligence and patterning ability that might have flourished had she gone to college. She finds a puzzle partner, played by Irrfan Khan, and they prepare secretly for a competition — which they win. They fall in love. They have sex — once. There is nothing torrid or overdone in this film.
There are quietly funny pieces for anyone who grew up Catholic. The film takes place during Lent, and McDonald shows up for the first time to meet Khan, an Indian and likely either Muslim or Hindu, with ashes on her forehead, having gone to church for Ash Wednesday. Khan, seeing her forehead, is perplexed.
This is a traditional coming-into-herself film, but it’s not conventional. McDonald’s husband is incurious and painfully predictable but he’s not an oaf — he loves her. One of her sons, working with his father in the garage, wants to be a cook. The other wants to take a gap year to travel with his girlfriend. McDonald’s awakening unfolds in a way that I didn’t expect, but in the end seems right.
Phyllis, Jeannie, Amy, other blog readers who are puzzlers, might enjoy Puzzle. Maybe it’s an age thing. You have to be able to slow down to savor the deliberately unfolding beauty of this film.