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The Game of Life: Self-Discovery, Via Jigsaw, in Puzzle

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Puzzle
Written and directed by Natalia Smirnoff
Sundance Selects
Opens May 27, IFC Center

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The essential facts of the home life of Maria del Carmen (Maria Onetto) are in the opening of Puzzle. She bustles about preparing for a party, but only when the cake comes out with 5-0 candles do you realize it’s her birthday that’s being celebrated. Maria is a petty, bourgeois housewife with two young-adult sons and a husband (Gabriel Goity) who treats her with tender distraction, as a known quantity. Which she is, really, until she discovers quite by accident that the intent, task-oriented concentration that’s been going into housework can also be applied to jigsaw puzzles. Maria also discovers she has a knack for maintaining deception: Her new hobby leads her to a gentleman puzzle-enthusiast (Arturo Goetz) who’s looking for a partner to take on the world championship, and she begins to sneak off and covertly train with him. The self-esteem booster shot provided by the sudden discovery of a prodigious talent is conveyed in a shy, self-surprised amusement by Onetto, accompanied by the slightest loosening of the joints. The storytelling is as unassertive as its protagonist—and likewise gets its way in the end.

 
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