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Westside Steve

Puzzle review

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Sony classics
R.                    103 min
Friends I often complain about the great wasteland of Summer movie releases. Mostly it’s crap to attract kids who don’t have to go to school while the studios save the quality films for as close to Oscar nomination time as they can lest the academy forget. Here it is the end of August and I’ve just seen the first film of the year I consider worthy of an Oscar nomination. And it’s a surprising film. It’s not on very many screens right now; the closest to us would be the Cedar Lee and the Chagrin Cinemas [Edit PUZZLE is opening this week at many more major Outlets]  but PUZZLE is an understated yet engrossing story of a simple woman living a life of quiet desperation. Let me repeat the word quiet.
Kelly Macdonald is Agnes, a mousy little woman dedicated to serving her husband and to teenage boys who keeps her small dreams and a box her entire adult life. Her husband Louis (David Denham) isn’t really a bad guy, just a working stiff who brings home his paycheck to support the family. He’s never mean or abusive but he expects his errands to be run his house to be clean and his dinner when he wants it. Little things that might make Agnes happy just start his top priority. The line that separates love with dependents kind of blur between him and his wife, and makes the love part harder to distinguish.
Meanwhile Agnes is something of a savant, not to the extent of Dustin Hoffman in RAINMAN but she does have a very keen grasp of mathematics which makes her amazingly good at solving jigsaw puzzles. After receiving a favorite puzzle she tracks down a puzzle store in the city where she finds an ad with a phone number from a man looking for a partner with which to enter a jigsaw competition. They eventually meet and she becomes more and more intrigued not only with the upcoming event but with this odd man.
Since the two must practice a couple times a week to sharpen their skills she has to take time away from her duties at home and has to lie about where she is.
Thanks to a well-crafted script that walks the tightrope between tragedy and Hope we are never quite sure if this is an actual ticket to paradise or simply a the glitter of Fools Gold. That’s the question she will struggle with as well as the members of the audience. Extremely well done extremely emotional and will leave everyone with nearly the same emotional questions as the characters in the film. I won’t tell you the ending but I thought it was the perfect, though not completely committal, ending on a wonderful story.

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